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18th Amendment: federation’s role

November 11, 2012

MANY ministries that were devolved following abolishment of the concurrent list have now resurfaced though with different names. Thus the ministry of environment came back as the ministry of climate change, minsitry of labour was replaced by the ministry of human resource development, ministry of food agriculture and livestock was reborn as ministry of food security, and so on.

And now reports from your newspaper suggest a ‘ministry of public health and services’ is in the making to take over the reins of the devolved ministry of health.

The exotic names of these new ministries reflect the legal sophistry and loopholes that have been used to justify their creation. It would have been more prudent to have kept some role for the federal government in these subjects while drafting the 18th Amendment.

A good example is the ‘shared competencies’ list of subjects of the European Union. This list, where Brussels has the exclusive right to legislate on, includes subjects such as labour affairs (as part of social policy), agriculture, environment, consumer protection, transport, public health and so on.

The argument for giving Brussels legislative right over these subjects was due to abolishing custom barriers between individual member-countries of the EU which made possible free movement of manufactured goods, agricultural produce, labour, diseases and so on between member-countries.

It was thus felt necessary to give a central authority legislative right over these subjects to regulate and monitor them as an individual member-country cannot do so without a customs agency on things that can move freely through its territory.

Let us hope that a 22nd Amendment will be passed that places these subjects under the ambit of the Council of Common Interests. Otherwise, these new ministries will continue to remain on a shaky legal ground and the federation will remain deprived of legislating on subjects that are really federal in nature and character.

ZAFAR CHEEMA Worcestershire, UK