ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has reconstituted the Council of Common Interests (CCI) giving majority members to Sindh amid warnings by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) against alleged plan to roll back the 18th Constitution Amendment that granted greater autonomy to the provinces.
According to a notification issued by the Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC), the eight-member council is headed by the prime minister with four provincial chief ministers and federal ministers for inter-provincial coordination, industries and production and finance as its members.
The notification says that President Mamnoon Hussain has reconstituted the CCI on the advice of the prime minister while exercising his powers under Article 153 of the Constitution.
The new CCI will have four members with Sindh origin. The previous Council under former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had four members from Punjab whereas his predecessor Nawaz Sharif had the CCI with two members each from all the four provinces.
Asad Umer is the current finance minister of the country whereas Dr Fehmida Mirza of the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) has been allocated the portfolio of the IPC ministry. A businessman and industrialist Abdul Razak Dawood is the adviser to the PM on industries and production with the status of federal minister.
Article 153(2) of the Constitution empowers the prime minister to nominate three federal ministers to the CCI from time to time without any bar.
Dr Fehmida Mirza, who had served as the speaker of the National Assembly during the PPP’s regime, has this time managed to reach parliament after contesting the election on the ticket of the GDA from her native coastal city of Badin in Sindh.
Although Mr Umer has become the MNA from Islamabad for the second consecutive time, he had also spent much of his lifetime in Karachi. Similarly, Mr Dawood also hails from Karachi, though currently he is based in Lahore in connection with his businesses.
The CCI composition has a critical significance because its decisions are taken through majority opinion. Clause 4 of Article 154 states that “the decisions of the Council shall be expressed in terms of the opinion of the majority”.
The ruling alliance at the Centre has an overwhelming majority in the CCI as Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah is the only member belonging to the opposition.
The CCI, which was formed under the 1973 Constitution to resolve the issues between the Centre and the federating units (provinces), actually became effective after the historic 18th Constitution Amendment in 2010 when it was placed under the ministry of the IPC, instead of the Cabinet Division. Moreover, under the 18th Amendment, it is mandatory for the CCI to meet once in 90 days.
A number of PPP leaders, including party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and former Senate chairman Raza Rabbani, have recently warned the new PTI government against any plan to roll back the 18th Amendment.
PPP’s Nisar Khuhro during a recent news conference reportedly stated that a conspiracy was being hatched to attack provincial autonomy by rolling back the 18th Amendment and reducing share of National Finance Commission (NFC) and Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) instead of enhancing them to address provinces’ grievances.
Mr Khuhro had said that Sindh, which contributed 70 per cent to the national exchequer, was entitled to a substantial raise in the NFC award, but it seemed the PTI wanted to bring back the era of Farooq Leghari’s government when the provinces’ share was 37pc and 67pc went to the Centre.
Earlier, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had stated that his party would not allow rolling back of the 18th Amendment and changes in the NFC award.
Similarly, PPP’s Raza Rabbani had said that any attempt to roll back the 18th Amendment would cost the federal government dearly.
Published in Dawn, September 6th, 2018