Minister for Petroleum Musadik Malik gave a statement recently that government does not have enough money to even buy poison which is slang for extreme poverty. The statement is true as the economy is indeed on the verge of collapse. But why the suffering of this monetary crisis is only confined to the general public? Why not to the parliamentarians and other high profile officials as well?
You tell me that you do not have enough money to even buy poison, yet my prime minister is travelling on chartered planes while his ministers and key aides get to travel in business class? You tell me that there is a nerve-racking load shedding in the country because you do not have the money to pay the oil companies, but you do have the money to advertise your foreign visits and policies on a large section of mainstream newspapers and news channels?
PML-N is not the only one to be criticized here. Our previous prime minister Imran Khan was also obsessed with helicopter rides. He used to travel in helicopters on every trip. Him and his ministers spent an awful amount of money just on luxuries. And it is understood that prime ministers before him were not so different as well.
Keeping the prime ministers aside, think about all other parliamentarians, and bureaucrats who enjoy the same perks. Do they pay for these luxuries themselves?
According to the National Assembly allowances and salary act, if a typical Pakistani parliamentarian travels, the government will pay for the expense equivalent to a business class fair. If they travel abroad, these people will travel in first-class cabins, and we will be paying for that. Besides this, they receive travel vouchers worth Rs300,000 (which are mostly utilised by their family members) for their free travel throughout the year. A petrol allowance of 600 litres is granted to them along with medical and housing allowances. Why no one raises their eyebrows on this?
Why do middle-class citizens get to suffer the consequences of a collapsing economy but the parliamentarians who are indeed responsible for this, got all their expenses covered by our tax money.
Government officials are not the only beneficiaries of these perks, judiciary officials, and the first two tiers of the military also enjoy these perks. If you Google the documents, you can easily find the details of allowances for the members of parliament and senate, but you will not find the details of allowance for military officers because this data is not public.
The military which has a budget of billions covers the unnecessary expenditures of army officials and their family members on our tax money which needs to be discussed.
Everyone is telling the government to cut the subsidy to common people but why does no one seem to have a problem with the lavish allowances that these rulers of a poor country have? Can we afford the hundreds of litres of petrol, travel allowances, and medical grant for the people who are already rich? Every visit they make, every call they make, their electricity, all their bills are being covered by our money. Why has no one objected to that?
If we do not have enough money to give relief to the common people, then why are we giving these allowances to the parliamentarians and other officials? Let them pay for petrol. Let them pay their electricity bills. Let them travel at their own expense. The ministers who tell the people to calm down and be patient in times of drastic economic shelling should try to keep up with their own assigned salary of Rs150,000 as well.
If the Titanic is sinking, the lifeboats shall not be reserved only for the rich. Pakistan is a middle-class country. And its rulers (who are already rich) should also try living like middle classers as well because this is the need of the hour. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif should set an example for people by abandoning the traditional luxurious approach.
Hard decisions should not only be confined to the general public but to the upper tier as well including the sitting premier himself.