ISLAMABAD, Sept 16: The federal government or the Planning Commission have no constitutional or legal authority to organise any conference on syllabus and curriculum as provinces have been empowered to exclusively deal with the issue under the 18th amendment.

This was stated by Senator Raza Rabbani at a roundtable organised by Centre for Civic Education Pakistan and the Forum of Federations in collaboration with the German foreign office here on Friday.

Senator Rabbani said he had observed a dangerous trend which may roll back the spirit of the 18th constitutional amendment, warning any such conclusion would be against the federation of Pakistan.

“The spirit of the 18th amendment is in danger to be rolled back. We must ensure the rollback is stopped. You have the political history of state suppression, state disappearances and state murder and torture. You have the history where the provinces were denied the rights to promote their languages,” he observed.

He said teaching students in Punjab about Ranjeet Singh or Bhagat Singh would not harm Pakistan in any away. “Pakistan was created to become a welfare state but the purpose was changed and the country became a garrison and national security state,” he said, adding the distorted version of history was no longer relevant in the post-18th amendment era.

He reminded the audience that the 18th amendment was the culmination of Charter of Democracy signed between Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. “It is not the business of the Planning Commission to call such a conference.”

However, he said, the conference was organised to please some international donors so they could continue their funding. “Should the government keep on jumping at the whims of international donors and circumvent the constitution?”

He told the participants that a long debate had taken place whether to empower provinces to devise their own educational policy and prepare curriculum and syllabus.

The antagonists contended that an East Pakistan-like situation was being created. They believed empowering provinces to deal with the subject of education would threaten the ideology of Pakistan.Senator Rabbani said the implementation commission had faced a strong opposition from several quarters in the second phase of the devolution of ministries.

He said the nation was misled on the question of devolving the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to the provinces.

Another example, he said, was the National Vocational and Technical Training Commission which was supposed to be handed over to the provinces but several times the implementation commission faced resistance from the Prime Minister Secretariat.

However, he said, the president and prime minister rendered their full support to the process of devolution. “Some courtiers thought the 18th amendment would never see light of the day. They thought even if it was passed it would not be possible to implement this gigantic amendment.”

He said several people with centrist mindset strongly opposed the process of devolution and provincial autonomy which he considered an attempt to violate the constitution. “Don't forget there was a huge trust-deficit between the provinces and the centre which still persists,” he said.

Those who also spoke on the occasion included Pir Mazharul Haq, senior minister Sindh; Dr Salman Humayun, Farah Hamid, secretary higher education, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; Dr Allah Bakhsh Malik, secretary literacy Punjab; Akbar Hussain Durrani, secretary education Balochistan and the chairpersons of textbook boards, KP, Sindh and Balochistan.