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KARACHI: Claiming that the 18th constitutional amendment has robbed the provinces of their rights and the centre has become stronger at the cost of the provinces, Sindhi nationalists have demanded that the centre surrender all provincial subjects to the provinces.

This claim was made by Sindh United Party President Syed Jalal Mehmoud Shah and the Sindh Dost Democratic Party chief Barrister Zamir Ghumro at a press conference at the Karachi Press Club on Tuesday. Other nationalists leaders who were present on the occasion included Shah Muhammad Shah, Dr Dodo Mehri, Ghulam Shah and Shahnaz Shah.

Reading out from a joint statement, Mr Shah said the parliamentary committee on the 18th amendment on the pretext of abolition of the concurrent list had taken away purely provincial subjects, including electricity, professions such as medical and engineering, and criminal law for the first time and had increased the entries of the federal lists from 67 to 74.

He said before the 18th amendment the 1973 constitution envisaged that the subjects which were not mentioned in the federal or concurrent lists solely belonged to the provinces. The departments of local government, special initiatives, youth affairs, education, livestock and dairy development, social welfare and special education, environment, women development, food and agriculture, health, minorities, culture, and sports were purely provincial subjects as none of them was enlisted in the federal or concurrent list. These departments were unconstitutionally retained at the centre even after the abolition of one unit in 1970, he added.

Mr Shah said even after announcing their transfer to the provinces these ministries had not been totally abolished and in fact their 200 functions and projects had been transferred to the cabinet division, economic affairs division, inter-provincial coordination ministry, foreign affairs and economic affairs division, commerce, planning and development division. Besides, the centre would continue to collect Zakat and Ushr and make its distribution, which was totally unconstitutional, he said.

“Fiscal autonomy is the linchpin of any autonomy regime. However, Sindh province has been robbed of its taxation revenue, gas and oil wealth,” he said and added that the federal government had failed to devolve any major tax to the provinces. He pointed out that even under the Government of India Act 1935, sales tax was solely a provincial tax, but the federal government now controlled all the four major taxes — income tax, sales tax, customs duty and excise duty.

He said the federal government had retained 48 per cent of taxation revenue and 100 per cent non-tax revenue of the country for its eight ministries, unlawfully enlarged by adding provincial subjects.

They demanded abolishing of all ministries except eight for the centre as per the constitution and sending all employees to its surplus pool. They further demanded that the constitution be amended so that the centre retained only defence, foreign affairs and currency with equal representation from all the four provinces.The centre must surrender all provincial subjects/ functions and institutions handed over to different ministries and divisions. Law and order, narcotics, information, textile industry, and industries being provincial subjects under the constitution, the ministries of information, interior, narcotics, textile and industries were constitutional at the centre which must be abolished forthwith.

He also called for the formation of a new financial commission to evaluate the financial needs of the centre after the abolition of ministries from the centre.

Likewise, the financial one unit may be done away with immediately but maintaining separate tax accounts of all the four provinces and all provinces should contribute their tax revenue according to their population to the centre in accordance with Article 160 of the constitution which also allowed only vertical distribution while the NFC award was unlawfully engaged in horizontal distribution.They also demanded that taxation powers, including tax on the sale and purchase of goods, be devolved to the provinces and the provinces be given total ownership over their gas and oil resources.

Administrative autonomy be ensured and the centre must not interfere with appointing chief secretaries. All DMG and police officers having domicile of other provinces be repatriated to the centre, they added.