ISLAMABAD - As protests of the government employees demanding pay raise in their salaries erupted in the federal capital on Wednesday, the three-member negotiations team of the ruling PTI said that the government’s doors for talks with the protestors were still open and it was ready to give them a special temporary allowance.

The government is ready to give a special allowance only to the federal employees of basic pay scale 1 to 16 for next four months till a final pay raise would be announced in the next fiscal budget on the recommendations of the Pay and Pension Commission, said Defence Minister Pervez Khattak while addressing a joint press conference along with Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed and State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan.

The two federal ministers and the state minister are part of the government committee that is negotiating with the government employees and the finance ministry to reach a conclusion on pay raise issue.

The defence minister made it clear that the federal government could not announce any pay raise for provincial government employees, who have joined the protest, because it would be a violation of the Constitution.

“The government has agreed to the major demands of the federal government employees including their upgradation but the deadlock persists on the percentage of pay raise,” he said.

The government has calculated that there was 60 percent difference of pays between low-paid employee and those who are already getting increased salaries, he also said.

Khattak underscored that the government had its own budgetary limitations rather it has agreed to give them special allowance equivalent to 40 percent raise out of the total 60 percent difference. “This increase accounts for increase in 25 percent of the basic pay but the federal government employees are demanding 40 percent raise in their basic salaries,” he said. 

He further said that this special allowance would be till June this year when a final pay raise would be announced for them on the basis of the recommendations of the Pay Commission.

Sh Rashid warns govt employees against involving politics into their ‘just right to protest’

“We still want to talk to them,” Khattak who is a senior member of the ruling PTI said. He showed his surprise that the government was negotiating with the representatives of employees for pay raise up to grade 16 but the other day, they demanded to increase salaries of all employees up to officers of grade 22. He added that the government was even considering this demand as well but it has its own budget constraints. “The government is ready to give them maximum relief but if they want raise of their choice, they should wait till June.”

The defence minister said the federal government cannot decide on the pay raise of employees of provincial governments because they cannot order provinces to increase their salaries after the 18th Amendment. “We have asked them that we will give directions to the provinces to resolve their issues.”

State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan talking on the occasion said that the protestors being government employees are responsible people of state and the government was worried as much as they were worried to get their issue resolved. “We have got them engaged…We have agreed to their major demands of upgradation and merger but deadlock is on percentage of raise,” he also said while endorsing Khattak.

Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed on his turn warned the government employees of involving politics into their “just right to protest under the law. “If political parties get involved into this protest and would give it a political colour, then government employees will have to face the consequences,” he said adding that they will be the losers. “

The Minister for Interior said that the government was ready to issue notification of raise, equivalent to 25 percent increase of their basic pay, for grade 1 to 16. “We will get approval of the cabinet next week,” he said and hoped that the matter would be resolved in a day or two. He said that the government would have to incur the financial burden between Rs 42 billion to Rs 62 billion due to the raise. He added that if the government would accept the demand of increasing their basic pays, the national kitty would have to face a burden in billions of rupees through increase in pensions.

Sheikh Rashid said that the government had settled the matter of pay raise of employees of grade 1 to 16 and it has now become clear that officers of grade 17 to 22 were behind them who also wanted raise in their salaries.

He thanked employees of Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) for ending the strike. About the protest of teachers who have been repatriated to the provinces from the federal capital, he said that it was a matter of court but federal government wanted to resolve the matter amicably too.

Responding to questions, the interior minister said the government is ready to face the long march of the opposition’s Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) announced for March 26. “Prime Minister Imran Khan has conveyed to me not to obstruct their protest march.”

About a statement of PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz in favour of the protestors, the interior minister said the opposition parties used to give such statements because they were not bound by the law. He added that the government employees were bound by the law and if they violated any rules, this might cost them their jobs.

He also said that former PM and PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif’s passport would expire on February 16 and would not be renewed further. The former PM who is living in London can get protective certificate from Pakistan’s High Commission there if he wanted to return the country, he added.

Replying about the allegations former PTI MPA Obaidullah Mayar against him in connection with horse-trading in 2018 Senate election, Pervez Khattak denied all allegations and said that it was surprising that 17 votes of PTI were sold in that election and they themselves were being alleged for giving the money.

About the venue of the leaked video, he claimed that it was not KP Speaker House. “It was a house in Islamabad, and we can show you the house,” he said adding that he was not present there. He said that then MPA of the PPP and the parliamentary leader Muhammad Ali Shah was present there and was handling the matter of selling and buying of votes.