The Notorious Bill of MPs Privileges
Activists and a number of lawmakers on Wednesday opposed a new draft law that would grant extensive privileges to MPs including a 25 percent salary for the rest of their life. The activists participating in the demonstration called on the Parliament to remain committed to defending the rights of the people and refrain proceeding with approval of the law. The MPs approved the law unanimously on Saturday and since then it attracted bitter criticisms from the citizens and civil society members. Since then many demonstrations have taken place calling both the Upper and Lower Houses of the Parliament to stop approval of the law. Though the Upper House of the parliament rejected the bill due to some problems in the draft, it is expected representatives from commissions assigned by the two house would meet to resolve the differences over the law.
In opposing the law, civil society organizations and the activists have played the central role in leading the demonstrations against the bill. The movement in recent days seems to be paying off with the Upper House of the parliament rejecting the law and the rejection receiving praise not only from the society but the House members as well. It is hoped that the civil society activists and organizations would continue to play an important role in drawing attentions to the law which is committing bias to a specific class of the society. In addition to a 25 percent lifetime salary, the new set of previlidges include political passport for the MPs, service passports for their families and counting the MPs as dignitaries in government official ceremonies.
Given Afghanistan’s financial status, the new bill would put a heavy burden on should of the government which is continuing to be financed by foreign donors in the years to come. This is while the public personnel and military servicemen are receiving the lowest salaries compared to other countries. Afghan public servants now receive a bit higher than 100 US dollars per month while they cannot afford living expenses by such low salaries. In this context, the MPs, who now receive around 4,000 US dollars per month in addition to many other monetary and non-monetary privileges, move the guarantee their lifetime salaries even when they are not serving. There is little between such a move and national treason, while this is an obvious act of corruption. The MPs have still time to start with a clean slate and avoid staining the reputation and status of the two houses.
Though many are hopeful that there is chance President Hamid Karzai would avoid signing the law. However, there is still the possibility that the representatives from both house might agree on the document after reviewing some articles that would finally make its way to the President’s approval. Though now the Lower house of the Parliament is fragmented over approval of the law, the chance exist the MPs might even resort to the House MPs to finalize it that would bypass the president’s approval. The rejection of the law by Mishrano Jirga has been applauded by civil society members and the media. The ball is now on the MPs court to heed the call of the nation.