Irked by an unending discriminatory treatment, the Economist Group on Tuesday began partial strike against the government’s decision to grant 150% executive allowance to a select few bureaucrats, also threatening to slow release of the development budget.

The Economist Group supposedly should have been the backbone of economic planning in Pakistan but is a highly marginalized civil service group, often forcing young people to resign from government job. 

The grade-17 to 21 officers of the Economist Group, who mostly work in the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform began their partial pen-down strike, also unveiling a plan that includes completely boycotting the official work from next week.

The group decided to stage a protest in front of the Planning Ministry and Finance Ministry after the Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal and Secretary Zafar Ali Shah could not fulfil their promises. 

Shah, a grade-22 officer of the PAS, who sits in the same building, enjoys the 150% executive allowance. But the entire machinery working under him is deprived of the special pay that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif approved this July. 

The officers say that the 27% inflation rate punches more when an officer from the PAS sitting next door was availing the 150% executive allowance for doing less amount of work. 

In July, the Finance Ministry issued the notification for the grant of executive allowance to the officers serving on a basic pay scale of 17 to 22 and working in the federal secretariat, PM’s office and President’s Secretariat. 

However, classes of officers serving in the same secretariat had been purged from the notification. The notification appears highly discriminatory and is prone to be challenged in courts from day one in addition to questions over its timing, as the country is passing through difficult economic times.

The Finance Ministry has granted the allowance to all officers posted by the Establishment Division against sanctioned posts of section officers, deputy secretaries, joint secretaries, senior joint secretaries – (another nomenclature showing Pakistan Administrative Services biases) – additional secretaries, additional secretaries in-charge, special secretaries and Secretaries in the federal secretariat (ministries/divisions), PM’s Office and President’s Secretariat.

The discriminatory treatment being meted out to the Economist Group can be gauged from the fact that its service affairs are managed by a Secretary from the all-powerful Pakistan Administrative Service instead of being looked after by the Establishment Division. 

The Planning officers got irritated by the Finance Ministry’s response that the 150% executive allowance can only be given with the prior permission of the International Monetary Fund. They questioned that the ministry did not seek such permission at the time of granting the allowance to its officers. 

From Wednesday (today), the Economist Group would daily observe a two-hour strike and from Monday there will be a complete boycott of office work, according to a senior officer of the Economist Group. 

The Economist Group and Technical Groups held several meetings in which the course of action was discussed. They decided on Tuesday that all the officers will wear black bands till the issuance of executive allowance notification. 

The group will strictly comply with the office working hours from 8 am to 4 pm and no work would be done from home. This may create problems for the Planning Minister who has a habit of coming to meetings late by at least a margin of one hour, which disturbs the entire schedule of the ministry. 

Where the government is reluctant to give executive allowance to the Economist Group, an attempt is being made to induct those people as Public Policy Experts who have not served in any policy-making position for even one day. After the Establishment Division's objection to such illegal hiring, the sources said that the Secretary Planning has offered to accommodate the person at one notch below by amending the PC-I of a project.  

The officers have also threatened that they would also leak the details of government funds being used to pay salaries to the personal staff of a few people. 

The Economist Group has decided that if no action is taken till next week, a pen-down strike would be observed from 8 am to 4 pm till the allowance is extended to officers of the Economist and Technical Groups of the Planning Ministry and the Planning Commission. 

From next week, the officers will boycott the meetings of the Central Development Working, Party, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council and other forums. It has also been decided that the officers would delay of the release of funds for the projects.  

As a final resort, the group has decided to knock on the door against discrimination.