KARACHI: Questioning the unnecessary creation of new ministries at the federal level, renowned economist Dr Kaiser Bengali on Tuesday urged the federal government to lessen its expenditures if it did not have money.
He was speaking during a consultative dialogue on ‘The 18th Amendment — Crucial for Democracy’ organised by the Women’s Action Forum’s (WAF) Karachi and Hyderabad wings at the Arts Council of Pakistan, Karachi on Tuesday.
“There are so many ministries formed by the federal government, which are not even needed. For instance, there is the ministry of national harmony. Does it come up with such ministries to give jobs to bureaucrats?” he asked.
The 18th Amendment gives provinces ‘some’ freedom
Coming to the 18th Amendment itself, he said that earlier the provinces used to look towards Islamabad for little things but the 18th Amendment gave the provinces some freedom.
According to it, a province with resources was given priority of using them such as oil and gas and the surplus may be directed to the rest of the country for use. “But the federal government gave away so many gas licences without even consulting the provinces of origin,” he said.
‘Federal govt planning to roll back everything’
Earlier, educationist Dr Arfana Mallah, who was moderating the dialogue, set the ball rolling by talking about provincial autonomy and how the provinces have struggled for devolution all these years. “And now that there is the 18th Amendment in the Constitution, there is the federal government planning to roll back everything,” she said.
Speaking about the 18th Amendment and division of powers, Barrister Zamir Ghumro said that the division of powers scheme is provided under Articles 142, 97 and 154 of the Constitution.
He said that for the first time in history, the federal list was divided in two parts. “Part 1 was entrusted to the federal cabinet and Part 2 to the Council of Common Interests (CCI). Both the federal cabinet and CCI answer to parliament. The permanent secretariat of the CCI has not been established as provided by Article 154 despite the resolution of the Senate,” he said.
“Division of powers between the federal cabinet and CCI stands fundamentally violated,” he pointed out.
He said that division of power scheme between the provinces and the federal government should be respected as should the separation of powers regime between parliament and judiciary.
“Article 248 gives immunity to the cabinet which should be respected. And Article 63(2) and 64 is to empower the parliament and provincial assemblies to remove their members without interference from any other organ of the state which must also be respected,” he said.
Call to shield 18th Amendment
Journalist Nazish Brohi spoke on the process of the 18th Amendment. “It took 60 years for Pakistan to resolve the issue of devolution of power to the provinces and we are rethinking it already,” she said.
“It is not a provincial or federal issue. It has more to do with having a homogeneous country or a country with diversity. So the tension is on the two concepts of Pakistan,” she said, adding: “As citizens and as democrats we should shield the 18th Amendment and demand more.”
Speaking about the education devolution according to the 18th Amendment, Dr Riaz Sheikh, dean of social sciences at SZABIST, said that the 18th Amendment had revised the existing framework of distribution of powers between the federal government and the federating units.
“Education has been shifted to the legislative and executive jurisdiction of the provinces,” he said.
He also said that there are two kinds of federations in the world, hold-together and come-together. “We need to make a move from holding the provinces together to persuading them to come together and the 18th Amendment provides an excellent opportunity for such a paradigm shift,” he said.
Pakistan Peoples Party’s information secretary Dr Nafisa Shah finally said that the dialogue sounded more of a plea to her than a dispassionate debate.
“Because for a debate on the subject the federal perspective was needed too,” she said, adding that the 25th Constitutional Amendment — regarding merger of Fata with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa — had positive stories about the strengthening of democracy.
“So there also needs to be a debate about what the other side wants and about its concerns. Also there are different perspectives of the different provinces. All have their separate issues that also need to be considered,” she said.
Published in Dawn, January 9th, 2019