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‘A particular mindset does not accept provincial autonomy’

Rabbani says if system tampered with, Federation to be at stake

ISLAMABAD: Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani on Tuesday said that if the democratic system of the country was tampered with, the Federation would be at stake. He deplored that a peculiar mindset had not accepted provincial autonomy.

He suggested four basic steps as a way forward for fiscal devolution after the 18th Constitutional Amendment. He also advocated giving financial powers to the Senate.He was addressing a policy dialogue on: “Future of fiscal federalism in Pakistan – issues and options”, as the chief guest at the Comsats Institute of Information Technology, Islamabad.

The dialogue was jointly organised by the Rural Development Policy Institute, Inter-University Consortium for Promotion of Social Sciences, of 35 Pakistani universities and Center for Policy Studies, Comsats Institute of Information Technology, Islamabad.

Rabbani said that NFC Award should be given on time i.e. after every five years and he noted that this would be second budget under 7th NFC Award and it was unfortunate that it was being delayed due to the fact that one province had failed to nominate its member.

He contended that the items on the Federal Legislative List Part-II were under the legislative and administrative control in terms of policy and supervision of the Council of Common Interest (CCI). “Therefore, it will be appropriate if the budget pertaining to these items and their related departments and bodies is approved by CCI and not the cabinet,” Rabbani added.

The Senate chairman emphasised that this was even more necessary when a new NFC was still pending. On this count, Rabbani also referred to Clause-III of Article 172 of the Constitution dealing with and pertaining to the 50 percent of equal ownership of oil and gas between the provinces and federation.

“Since the 18th Amendment, successive governments have deliberately not taken any steps in this direction as the federation does not want to release its strangle hold on these resources,” he said.

Rabbani further said that the Senate needed to be given financial powers. “In almost all the federations of the world, the Upper House which represents the federating units or in some cases the nationalities have financial powers.”

The Senate chairman said that it was also imperative that census should be held immediately because no meaningful planning for resource distribution could take place without this nation-wide exercise.

Rabbani pointed out that it was being propagated that provinces did not have the capacity, which was an excuse to deny the provincial rights guaranteed by the constitution to the provinces.

He underscored the need for strict implementation of the real spirit of the 18th Constitutional Amendment and called for early announcement of the NFC Award with a better monitoring mechanism.

Responding to various questions, Rabbani said that universities were the pillars of the higher education system and hub of innovation, knowledge, creation and ideas. “They must have autonomy from all extraneous influences in order to govern and manage their academic, administrative, and financial functions,” he noted.

He said after the abolition of concurrent list under 18th Constitutional Amendment, education including higher education had been shifted to the legislative and executive jurisdiction of the provinces.

“The Implementation Commission, constituted under Article 270AA, after reviewing the powers and functions of federal HEC as given under the HEC Ordinance 2002, decided that limited extent body would continue to work as commission for standards in institutions of higher education as per entry No 12 of Part-II of Federal Legislative List i.e. standard in institutions of higher education and research, scientific and technical institutions,” he said.

Rabbani noted that it was quite misfortune even after the lapse of 6 years, the new body–Commission for Standard in Institutions of Higher Education and Research, Scientific and Technical Institutions has not been established in place of HEC.

Dr S M Junaid Zaidi, Rector, Comsats, Amjad Bhatti, expert on rule of law, Dr Idrees Khawaja, senior research economist, Dr Talat Anwar, Adviser to Center for Policy Studies, Ahmad Zahid Mehmood and a former federal secretary also shed light on various aspects of fiscal federalism. Seminar was widely attended by experts, academicians, researchers, faculty, media and representatives of think tanks and civil society.

 Source: The News

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