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18th Amendment: body to work on legal lacunas

October 27, 2013

ISLAMABAD, Oct 26: The government constituted on Saturday a committee to suggest legislation required to be passed by parliament to remove legal lacunas hindering the implementation of the 18th Amendment.

A committee headed by federal Minister Zahid Hamid was formed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during his first meeting with newly appointed Law Secretary Zafarullah Khan. Special Assistant to the PM Khawaja Zaheeruddin and the law secretary are the other members of the committee.

According to a handout issued after the meeting, Mr Sharif observed that after the passage of the 18th Amendment, the legislation needed to cope with the new scenario had not been made and this situation had created a legal vacuum. He said the previous government had shown “criminal negligence in this respect” and directed that necessary legislation should be made to fill the gap.

Talking to Dawn, Law Secretary Zafarullah Khan said the main job of the committee was to recommend new legislation to fill the legal vacuum created after the passage of the 18th Amendment. He dispelled a perception created by some TV channels that the committee had been formed to abolish the 18th Amendment or to make any changes in it.

The law secretary said that employees of the departments and ministries devolved to the provinces had been facing great difficulties due to various legal complications about their status.

He said the subjects of labour, education and health had been devolved to the provinces, but there were still a number of institutions and departments that had been functioning under the federal government. For example, Mr Khan said, the status of unions of certain departments like Pakistan Railways and Wapda had become questionable after devolution of the labour department to the provinces.

Moreover, he said, due to absence of certain laws a number of petitions relating to devolution had been pending in courts.

He criticised the PPP-led government for not doing the necessary legislation due to which the nation had been unable to get full benefits of the 18th Amendment.

Mr Khan alleged that the Implementation Commission formed by the previous government also ignored this aspect and suggested only the administrative steps.

When contacted, PPP Senator Raza Rabbani, who was the head of the Implementation Commission on the 18th Amendment, admitted that the previous government did not do the required legislation, but denied that his commission had ignored this aspect. In fact, he said, the commission had not only stressed the need for legislation but also pointed out the need for establishing certain new departments.

Mr Rabbani said he himself had written letters to the federal and provincial governments informing them about the need for doing legislation on the matter. He said the letters had also been sent to speakers of all assemblies and the Senate chairman suggesting them to take steps for changing the rules of business in line with the 18th Amendment.

Meanwhile, the prime minister directed the secretary to complete all the matters related to the court decisions, saying that court verdicts should be respected. “We respect judiciary and believe in active and independent judicial system. Our party has remained part of the judicial movement,” Mr Sharif said.