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PESHAWAR: The members of Senate Special Committee on Devolution Process have accused federal government of concentrating powers in itself and unwilling to delegate it to the provinces.

They asked the centre to announce new National Finance Commission award and call meeting of Council of Common Interest (CCI) to address issues of federating units. The demands were made at the provincial consultation meeting on Implementation of 18th Amendment that was called by the special committee of Senate here on Thursday. A joint declaration issued at the concluding session of the meeting, which was presided over by committee chairperson Senator Mir Kabeer Ahmed Mohammad Shahi, asked the federal government to delegate powers to the provinces in accordance with the 18th Amendment.

The declaration said that federal government was re-establishing new departments which had already devolved to the provinces after amendments in the Constitution in 2010. “This practice is completely unconstitutional,” it said.

Senators and senior officers of various departments and educational institutions attended the meeting. The declaration urged centre to announce NFC award, convene CCI’s meeting and establish an independent secretariat for the commission to deal with issues of the federating units.

It said that federal government should pay arrears to Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on account of natural gas royalty and net profit on hydel power generation, respectively. It also demanded of the centre to declare tobacco as provincial crop to give benefit to the provinces.

Addressing the meeting PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar said that systematic encroachment on powers was taking place at three levels in the country. He called for measures to reverse the trend.

He said that un-elected establishment was seeking to take over the functions of the elected government. “Within the elected structures, the federation is encroaching upon the domain of provinces which in turn are reluctant to give powers to local governments in accordance with the Constitution,” he said. About the encroachment of powers by the establishment the less said the better, he said. He added that the issue of state institutions working within their limits had been thoroughly discussed recently in Senate and the chairman of Senate reserved his ruling, which was expected to be announced in the forthcoming session of the upper house.

He said that Article 172 (3) of the Constitution clearly laid down that mineral oil and natural gas within the province or the territorial waters adjacent thereto shall vest jointly and equally in that province and the federal government.

“But the Senate was shocked last month when moves came to surface that federal government planned to set up a Petroleum Exploration and Production Regulatory Authority to solely grant the lucrative petroleum rights and upstream activities in the country with no role for provinces,” said Mr Babar.

Senator Ilyas Ahmad Bilour criticised federal government for placing ban on the activities of non-governmental organisations in KP. He said that if KP was not “no go area” then why did not the centre issue NOC to NGOs. He added that NGOs had been working in other provinces without obtaining NOC from the federal government.

Senator Syed Tahir Hussain Mashhadi took serious notice of the absence of chief secretary and administrative secretaries of the KP government from the meeting.

Senator Usman Kakar said that he had reservations over 1973 Constitution. He said that Senate had not been delegated powers. He said that they had serious reservations over Articles 62 and 63. He said that a judge should not be granted power to declare a person “Sadiq and Ameen.” He added that smaller provinces were being ignored in China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project.

Meanwhile, Senator Mir Kabeer Ahmed presented the report of Devolution Process Committee to Governor Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, said an official statement.

Published in Dawn, January 12th, 2018

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