ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Khurram Dastagir Khan on Tuesday challenged the composition of the 10th National Finance Commission (NFC) in the Islamabad High Court (IHC), requesting the court to set aside the notification of May 12 about the commission’s composition and the authorisation to adviser on finance Dr Hafeez Sheikh to preside over NFC meetings.
The ministry of finance had notified the constitution of the 11-member commission after approval of its terms of reference by President Arif Alvi as was required under Article 160 (1) of the Constitution.
However, the commission will effectively comprise 10 members as the president has also authorised the adviser to the prime minister on finance and revenue to chair meetings of the NFC in the absence of the federal finance minister. Otherwise, there is no room for the PM’s adviser to become even a member of the commission under the Constitution.
The commission will have four provincial finance ministers and four non-statutory members representing provinces and the federal finance secretary as official expert.
Requests that May 12 notification be voided
The petition, filed through PML-N leader Mohsin Shahnawaz Ranjha and Umer Gillani, said that President Alvi who is purported to have issued the notification under Article 160 of the Constitution had a duty to “constitute a National Finance Commission consisting of minister of finance of the federal government, ministers of finance of provincial governments and such other persons as may be appointed by the President after consultation with governors of the provinces”.
The petition further said that “a close reading of the aforesaid will bear out that the Commission is supposed to have two kinds of members: (i) Statutory Members; (ii) and Co-opted Members”.
Statutory Members, the petition said, were the five members whose presence was essential for the commission, including the federal minister for finance and four provincial ministers for finance.
Co-opted Members, the petition said, included five statutory members and more members could be added. However, it said, a co-opted member may only be added after “consultation with governors of the provinces”.
The petition further said that “any co-opted member may be added only if there is consensus among the President and governors of the provinces (acting on the advice of their respective cabinets) that the expertise of such co-opted member is necessary for the NFC”.
“However, the impugned notification does not make reference to any consultations whatsoever which the President held with governors of the provinces regarding the selection and appointment of each one of the Co-opted Members of the NFC,” the petition said, adding that it may be assumed that no such consultations were held.
Moreover, the petition said, the President also authorised the Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue to chair meetings of the Commission.
The petition further said that the President and the governors were bound to act on and in accordance with the advice of their respective cabinets or the prime minister and chief ministers, as the case may be. The impugned notification, the petition said, did not make any mention of such advice.
“Therefore, it appears that no such advice was sought. Especially with regard to the appointment of Dr Hafeez Shaikh there is reason to believe that no consultation was carried out with any of the provincial cabinets,” the petition said.
It requested the Islamabad High Court to declare the notification of May 12 void ab initio.
Published in Dawn, May 20th, 2020