Inappropriate salary rise, refugees’ extension

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OF the sixteen point agenda that the Federal Cabinet had before it on Wednesday, two issues attracted attention of the people most – increase in salaries of Chairman/Deputy Chairman Senate; Speaker/Deputy Speaker National Assembly, Ministers, Ministers of State and Members of Parliament and yet another extension in the stay of Afghan refugee till December 2017. These two issues became instant topic of hot discussion, which would continue for months because of their ramifications.
Though some of the politicians and critics have opposed Rs 400m annual increase in salaries of the MPs describing the move as benefiting the ‘privileged class’ at the cost of ordinary souls. It would not be fair to assume that all MPs mint money and therefore, need not appropriate salary and allowances commensurate with their status and responsibilities. MPs must be paid handsomely but they are also expected to deliver. What the two Houses have delivered for the welfare of the country and masses is amply before us? The second issue i.e. extension in stay of Afghan refugees for another year is indeed serious and deserves to be debated threadbare to develop a clear national consensus. There was a dominant view that enough is enough and all refugees whether registered or unregistered should go back to their homeland. We have been pointing out that apart from financial burden that the country has been left to bear alone, there are also heavy social costs of the presence of such a large number of refugees. There is a surge in thefts, car-lifting and street crimes both in KPK and Punjab and in many cases the culprits are stated to be Afghan nationals. They fleece people, gather money and run across the Durand Line and thereby escape the arm of the law. There are also genuine concerns that liberal decision of the Government to give one-year extension would mean almost total halt to voluntary repatriation, which was already expected to slow down because of harsh winter in Afghanistan. The Cabinet might have its own reasons for granting extension including its desire to keep one of the coalition partners happy but it amounts to testing nerves of the people who are bearing the brunt of negative activities and consequences associated with refugee population. Anyhow, what the Government must do is to confine all refugees in repatriation camps.