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Dangerous precedent

February 12, 2013

ON Jan 16, Dawn reported that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government had placed the employees of Pakistan Railways under the provincial labour department by repealing the federal ‘Payment of Wages Act, 1936’, as it believed it had the right after the 18 Amendment.

This is an astonishing development, as not only have workers of a federal entity been placed under provincial laws but the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has also unilaterally repealed a federal law.

This reminds us of the constitutional crisis that took place in the US when the state of North Carolina unilaterally annulled the federal ‘tariff of 1828’ bill, which ultimately became a harbinger for the US civil war. Fortunately, this action by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has not resulted in any such reaction here in Pakistan, but it sets a dangerous precedent.

What if Sindh tomorrow unilaterally repeals the federal PCB Ordinance and sets up its own cricket board to play international cricket?

Furthermore, if every province sets up its own labour laws and codes, it will become prohibitively expensive and messy to do business in Pakistan, as companies with employees in more than one province would have to hire an army of lawyers and accountants just to stay on top of the mishmash of provincial laws.

The 18th Amendment seems to have created more problems for the federation than solving them; enough of this devolution and autonomy nonsense.

The architects of the 18th Amendment should have compared their draft with the constitutions of other federations before finalising it.

All federations of the world have a single set of labour laws for national companies within their borders, and the federation of Pakistan should be no exception.

ZAFAR CHEEMA United Kingdom