Fact-check: Punjab has restored extra perks for former chief ministers
Updated Tuesday Nov 15 2022
Last month, politicians and online posts claimed that the ruling party in Punjab steamrolled the opposition in the provincial assembly and passed a new law to increase perks for ministers and chief ministers.
The claim is partly true.
Multiple tweets, posted in late October, alleged that the Punjab assembly has passed the Punjab Ministers (Salaries, Allowances and Privileges) (Amendment) (Repeal) Bill 2022 to hike the salaries of provincial ministers from Rs680,000 to Rs1,265,000.
Separately, lawmakers from the PML-N in Punjab also insisted that pays of cabinet members had been boosted by the coalition government of the PML-Q and PTI, as well as perks of former chief ministers had been restored.
Parts of the allegations are true.
The perks and privileges of the former chief minister have been restored. However, the salaries of provincial ministers have not been raised in the bill.
The Punjab Ministers (Salaries, Allowances and Privileges) (Amendment) (Repeal) Bill 2022 was passed by the Punjab assembly on October 18, amid loud protests by the opposition.
The bill reinstated extra benefits for former chief ministers, which were withdrawn by Hamza Shahbaz’s government.
Under the bill, passed on October 18, the PTI and PML-Q re-added Section 21-A which guarantees the following perks to ex-chief ministers:
- Security, including two elite police escort vehicles.
- Five personal staff members, of whom two shall not be less than in the basic pay scale of 17.
- Health facilities for former chief ministers and their families as determined by the government.
- Accommodation and services at all government rest houses as determined by the government.
- Any other perks and privileges as may be determined by the government.
The original law, titled Punjab Ministers (Salaries, Allowances and Privileges), was passed in 1975. In March 2019, the PTI government added Section 21-A (mentioned above) to the law.
In June, during the short-stint of Hamza Shahbaz as chief minister, Section 21-A was removed and replaced with the following: a former chief minister will be provided “suitable and adequate security” if he/she had held the office after the 2002 general election for a period not less than six months. All other perks were withdrawn.
But then in October, the PTI and PML-Q government returned to power and again amended the law, adding back Section 21-A.
Interestingly, the Punjab government passed the bill without providing copies to the opposition lawmakers for debate. Geo Fact Check reached out to several members of the ruling party to obtain a copy of the bill. None were willing to provide it.
In fact, PTI’s Musarrat Jamshed Cheema, who tabled the bill in the assembly, also did not share a copy of the bill with Geo Fact Check. Neither did the legislative department of the Punjab assembly or the chief minister’s office.
Azma Zahid Bokhari from the PML-N told Geo Fact Check that when she contacted the assembly for a copy she was told that it had been declared “classified”.
Geo Fact Check was only able to obtain the bill after the Governor refused to sign it into law and send it back for reconsideration.
In his comments, the governor wrote that increasing the perks and privileges of former chief ministers “would entail huge expenditure which will be a burden on the public exchequer.”