The ordeal pensioners have to go through

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PESHAWAR: Under the government’s welfare program, civil servants get retired at their 60, and in lieu of their lifetime services rendered for the state, they deserve dignified farewells. However, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) their lives becomes extra-ordinarily tougher due to complex and snail’s paced processes for gratuity clearance and issuance of pension.

The combined read of sections 13 and 19 of the Civil Service Act, 1973 tells that if a civil servant completes his or her service duration of 25 years, he or she will be entitled to pension and gratuity. The government will compensate the retiree according to scale or grade. The Accountant General Pakistan Revenues (AGPR) further classifies pension into five sub-categories i.e. compensation pension, invalid pension, family pension, superannuation pension, and retiring pension.

Almost every other retiring or superannuation pensioner from government service has similar story. They would complain about the never ending, complex and arduous inter and intra-departmental chain of processes, where already dejected elderly would fall helpless and disappointed. Frequent back and forth of retirement papers is just like a football game between opponents.

The retiring government servants expect from their departments to send them homes with honor and dignity, however, the situation is other way round. Abdul Samad Bacha, who got retired from Education Department after attaining his superannuation age, shares his ordeal with Apni Awaz.

“It took me almost three months to get my retirement funds and gratuity released, and start receiving monthly pension. The department gave me six different forms for clearance from the District Education Officer (DEO). In five weeks’ time, five forms got cleared, however, the DEO refused to sign the last form for unknown reasons. Already tired of lengthy processes, I ripped my pension document in anger”, Bacha narrates. He adds that later on the department herself completed the process without any objection, and in no time.

This exhibits the inappropriateness and impoliteness of the authorities who would deliberately linger on the pension processes without any reason, Bacha blames.

A similar complainant Gul Baba, who is a former servant of Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) in Peshawar, tells that he was relaxed from his services in 2010. However, in actual terms he could not find his mental peace except sitting at home and waiting for pension. “Although my pension process got cleared in one month, however, there is no mental peace because of imparity between amount of pension I receive and the inflation rate”, Bacha says, adding that he often receives his pension quite late. He has to visit his bank two to three times every month, and it is only then when he would misbehave with bank staff for his money. “We have to beg for our due right”, Baba says in disappointment.

Baba also complains about the government’s discrimination with old pensioners.

“Pensioners who got retired after 2012 have also been receiving medical allowances, but the old age pensioners are being denied with this perk”, Baba complains.

Zia-ur-Rehman Tajik, an Advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, admits the legal complexities in pension processes and says if a retired servant faces issues in receiving his or her pension, he or she can lodge a complaint with Service Tribunal (ST) who will ensure their rights according to the law.

He further informs this scribe that the AGPR has also established an online complaint cell since August 2016. The pensioner can easily file an online complaint against his or her issue and the authority is bound to respond within seven working days.

Pensioners also complain about misbehavior of the bank staff who issue their pensions on monthly basis. “Mostly the banks will return them empty hands on the date of pension”, Bacha says, adding that it feels as if they beg from them.

Abdul Mateen, a senior auditor at Pension Branch Mardan tells Apni Awaz that every pensioner would be issued his or her pension book upon retirement, which shows all the records. Delays in monthly pension releases can also be seen in the book log.

“Manual working of the departments causes this delay where staff is still processing handwritten applications. Also the physical back and forth of applications further adds to the delay”, Mateen explains.

Saif Ullah, who is a Social and Political Activist in Peshawar and deals with pensioners issues frequently, tells Apni Awaz out of his experience that banks would treat pensioners as third class citizens. “Elderly people deserve more respect as they dedicated their entire lives serving the country”, Saif Ullah says.

Farid Ullah, AGPR officer, tells that according to Supreme Court ruling, the banks are bound to treat pensioners with respect and dignity.

Mateen claims that his department is quite optimistic for improvement in the processes after the government has launched a Direct Credit System, by which the pension amounts are being transferred directly into the pensioners’ bank accounts. Now pensioners can easily withdraw their money through cheques or ATM cards, Mateen informs.

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