THE Federal Cabinet, which met in Islamabad on Tuesday with Prime Minister Imran Khan in the chair, lived up to its reputation of disposing of a heavy agenda and taking concrete decisions on important issues that matter much for the country and its people.
It maintained the decision to impose ban on Tareek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) imposed earlier this year, granted 15% allowance to the personnel of the armed forces, Rangers and FC over and above the 10% adhoc increase announced in the Federal Budget for all Government employees, expanded the scope of the exercise being undertaken to review security protocol for important personalities, held further discussions on electoral reforms with particular focus on developing understanding with the Opposition on the issue, reviewed Covid-19 vaccination drive and authorized the Capital Development Authority (CDA) to remove encroachments from some sectors of Islamabad in a non-discriminatory manner.
The decision to maintain the ban on the TLP was in line with the earlier stance adopted by the PTI Government that it would not be lifted and that the TLP would have to file an appeal in the court of law for the purpose.
The decision to impose the ban sent a strong message to all that those trying to blackmail the Government or challenge the writ of the State through violent tactics would not go scot free.
There was, however, some confusion about maintainability of the ban on questions of legal grounds, the procedure adopted and the political will of the Government to adhere to its decision given the clout of the party.
The Government showed some flexibility on the issue in that it formed a Committee to review the appeal of the TLP against the ban but the Federal Cabinet noted that after listening to the stance of the Punjab Government and the TLP, and after investigating the matter, the Committee decided that the decision to ban was taken on merit and facts.
Moving towards the logical conclusion, the Cabinet asked the Ministry of Law and the Attorney General for Pakistan to approach the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for cancellation of the party’s election symbol as per the ATA law.
And, according to Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Fawad Chaudhry, who briefed media-men about proceedings of the meeting, the cabinet decided in the light of the report that the TLP would not be allowed to resume political activities even after changing its name.
The grant of 15% additional allowance to all ranks of the defence forces, FC and Rangers, which would mean a total increase of 25% for them this year, is understandable as the disparity allowance of 25% granted to a section of the Government employees was not applicable to them.
This was a cause of heart burning among personnel of the defence forces and an attempt has been made to address their grievance pending presentation of the final report of the Pay and Pension Committee which is taking too much time in finalizing its recommendations.
There were serious anomalies in the pay and allowances of Government departments and institutions and the Committee has been asked to recommend measures to do away with these anomalies.
The personnel of defence forces are rendering great services and the grant of additional 15% to them is a welcome development but this would create yet another anomaly in the pay structure of the federal government.
The Government employees especially those who were not allowed 25% disparity allowance have been expressing strong resentment against the decision of the Government to grant them just a 10% increase when salaries of their colleagues in Sindh and KP Governments got higher raises in the new budget.
It would be in the fitness of things to increase salaries of the employees of such departments and organizations proportionate to the increase allowed for the defence forces or the government employees in Sindh and KP.
As an exercise is underway to review security protocol for VIPs, the Cabinet rightly decided to review security of former rulers and retired judges and bureaucrats in a gradual manner.
However, there is a need not to take any action that gives an impression of politically-motivated decision and genuine security requirements of all those who face real threats must be ensured.
Similarly, there is also a need to review perks and privileges of the parliamentarians as well as former presidents and governors, who get hefty pensions and perks despite strong reservations being expressed by some circles about rationality of this exercise.