ISLAMABAD, Dec 16: The inept manner in which devolution was carried out is coming to light as time goes by.
Take heritage. The ministry of culture in its last days devolved those very heritage sites that the federal government was supposed to retain.
Before its abolition on April 5, 2011, the ministry devolved the 403 sites and monuments on the federal legislative list, protected and governed by the department of archaeology and museums (DOAM) as national heritage under the Antiquities Act 1970.
“But somehow, the ministry missed transferring to the provinces from the concurrent list hundreds of heritage sites scattered across the country that were actually supposed to be devolved,” said a senior official in DOAM.
According to the constitution, subjects in the federal legislative list were under the control of the centre while those in the concurrent list belonged to both but in the control of the federal government until it felt or decided that a province had acquired the capacity to take upon the burden.
One of the reasons for retaining the federal list was that the centre served as a focal point when it came to signing/ negotiating international agreements and treaties.
From the time the mistake was made in April 2011, DOAM considered devolution of its subjects in the federal list (ancient and historical properties) to the provinces as wrong.
Now DOAM has backed its arguments with a notification approved by the 18th Amendment Constitutional Commission and issued on April 5, 2011, by the Cabinet Division that surfaced a few weeks back.
The notification gave clear directions to retain all the vital offices and functions - archaeology, national museums and historical monuments - and placed them under the Capital Administration and Development Division (CAD).
Putting the blame on the 18th Amendment Constitution Commission, Moinul Islam Bukhari, former secretary ministry of culture, told Dawn that the properties and functions of DOAM were devolved according to the directions.
“We gave a presentation to the implementation commission on retaining DOAM and did request not to devolve the ministry of culture but to no avail. The directions were to reduce the number of ministries,” claimed Mr Bukhari.
All this confusion resulted in DOAM giving up its offices of the federal list - museums, laboratories, excavation and exploration branch in Karachi and the seven world heritage sites - besides transferring over 800 personnel to provinces against posts that did not exist. A year-and-a-half on, provinces have been pushing the federal government for transferring all the heritage items in museums to them. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has aggressively been asking for the return of Gandhara artifacts taken out of the province.
However, the tables turned after the notification of April 5, 2011, surfaced and clearly stated that DOAM could keep all its offices and functions. Now the department of archaeology and museums, under the new Ministry of Heritage and Integration formed in October 2011, is pushing the federal government for the return of all its components/organs devolved to the provinces, including the seven world heritage sites.
“Notifications issued by the then ministry of culture and the establishment division are against the spirit of Article 270AA of the 18th Constitutional Amendment, and be rectified,” said the Ministry of National Heritage and Integration in its correspondence with the Cabinet Division.
“Hopefully, the error will be corrected and the sites and monuments devolved to the provinces would be reallocated under the department of archaeology and museums,” said Nazir Ahmad, Deputy Secretary Ministry of National Heritage.
He explained how the ministry was now pushing the Cabinet Division to restore all its departments where they were originally located. The ministry is of the view that all 14 museums, including the National Museum of Pakistan, Karachi, exploration and excavation branch, central archaeological laboratory and Pakistan Institute of Archaeological Training and Research should be returned.
If the ancient properties are returned to the department of archaeology, all 403 protected sites and monuments, including control of the seven Unesco world heritage sites such as Shalimar Gardens, Lahore, and the Lahore Fort and Rohtas Fort along with the 845 staff and laboratories, would be reallocated under DOAM.