ISLAMABAD: Amid concerns that the Council of Common Interests (CCI) had not convened for over nine months, Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif has called a meeting of the CCI tomorrow at the PM office in Islamabad.
A spokesperson to the PM told DawnNews that the meeting would be chaired by the prime minister himself, and would be attended by the chief ministers of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, and Balochistan.
Additionally, chief secretaries and federal ministers who are members of the council would also be in attendance.
The meeting is expected to touch upon many issues of national interest. CCI meetings typically tackle a long agenda and are regarded as the highest decision-making forum in the government.
The discussion of controversial decisions such as the allocation of natural resources and the provincial budget is often reserved for council meetings as opposed to cabinet meetings.
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Chief ministers at the CCI are expected to tackle the rationing of electricity and gas by province, and the census.
Earlier this week, members of the PPP, Syed Naveed Qamar, Shazia Marri, Dr Azra Fazal, Nafisa Shah and Belum Hasnain stated in a call-attention notice that the non-convening of the CCI meeting for nine months was “causing grave concern amongst the public”.
The PPP workers criticised the government for the delay in convening the CCI meeting, and accused the rulers of violating Article 153 of the Constitution.
Under sub-clause 3 of Article 153, the Council of Common Interests is required to meet at least once in three months. This provision was inserted in the constitution by means of the 18th Amendment.
The opposition wanted the CCI to take up a number of important national issues including the national census, privatisation of state institutions, and the change of route of the Pakistan-China Economic Corridor.
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Now, there is a fresh meeting reportedly scheduled for this week and perhaps, with the matter being taken up in parliament, it will finally be held.
Just a sample of the more than one dozen items on this week’s agenda further underlines the CCI’s relevance and importance. The population and housing census is to be discussed, as is the permanent absorption by the provincial governments of federal government employees transferred under the 18th Amendment.
In addition, amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code; the Indus River System Act, 1992 (which deals with water distribution between the provinces); and the federal petroleum policy are to be discussed.
Each one of those agenda items could consume an entire meeting by itself. Now, owing to the tardiness and neglect of the federal government, they are all on the agenda of the same meeting.
The neglect of the CCI also underlines a wider problem: the PML-N government’s almost total lack of interest in institution building and preference for ad hoc, extra-parliamentary and extra-institutional decision-making.