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Restoring the regulators’ independence

Yet another snub from the courts

When political exigencies start dictating administrative decisions this invariably leads to bad governance which has characterised the tenure of the PML-N. With the elections approaching, arbitrary decisions are on the increase.

Rule of law dictates treating all citizens equally. The government, however, ensures that certain sections of society – which finance the ruling party or are considered its captive constituency – are duly obliged, even if this has to be done at the cost of the economy. Hence tens of thousands belonging to the trading community remain out of the tax net. To get its arbitrary decisions implemented the government needs a pliant bureaucracy willing to bend laws whenever required. The PML-N government has frequently violated rules and regulations concerning the appointments and promotions to have its blue-eyed boys in key positions. All three Central Selection Boards (CSBs) held under the current government in 2014, 2015 and 2016 were thus mired in controversy. This month, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court set aside the decision of a high-powered selection board (HPSB) headed by the prime minister  regarding the promotion of officers from grade 21 to grade 22 for being ‘contrary to merit’.

The government’s latest targets were the five regulatory bodies which were set up to function independently of government influence. The foremost were NEPRA, OGRA and PPRA. In the case of the former, the government wanted to hide the Water and Power Ministry’s abysmal incompetence in reducing power losses, passing them over to the consumers – which the regulator showed unwillingness to do. In the case of OGRA, the government wanted to oblige multinational companies and CNG station retailers by allowing them to fix their own prices at the expense of the consumers – which OGRA would not allow. The Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) stood in the way of the government’s shady dealings as it prescribed regulations and procedures for procurements by public sector organisations. This time, the Islamabad High Court has set aside the federal government’s notification to place regulators under the control of ministries for being in violation of constitutional provisions.

Editorial. Restoring the regulators’ independence. Pakistan Today, March 29, 2017.

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