ISLAMABAD -  The status of five regulators placed under line ministries by the government last month hangs in balance till Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani announces his ruling.

The Senate chairman reserved his ruling on the issue after a clarification given by Law Minister Zahid Hamid on the floor of the Upper House last month.

According to parliamentary sources, the Senate chairman was expected to announce his ruling at the next session of the Upper House when it meets next week.

On December 19, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif through an administrative order placed the five regulators — Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority, National Electric Power Regulatory Authority, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, Frequency Allocation Board and Public Procurement Regulatory Authority — under the line ministries.

Previously, they regulatory bodies were functioning under the Cabinet Division. 

The law minister gave detailed arguments, however, the Senate chairman remained dissatisfied and reserved his ruling. 

Rabbani had remarked that such issues fall entirely under the domain of the Council of Common Interest (CCI) to decide because the federating units have fundamental stakes.

A Pakistan People’s Party senator had also opposed the decision and alleged that the government has some vested interest in placing the regulators under the line ministries.

Before the administrative order of the prime minister to place the bodies under the line ministries, the issue was placed on the agenda of the CCI meeting held on December 16 but was withdrawn after governments of Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) raised questions.

KP Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak had also written a letter to Inter-Provincial Coordination secretary questioning the urgency of placing the crucial issue on the agenda of the CCI meeting. After that, the federal government took the matter off the agenda of the CCI meeting.

The federal government insists that the administrative order has no implication whatsoever in terms of their autonomy.

The federal government also argues that these regulators have always been shifted in the past from one division to another without compromising their autonomy and transparency of their functions as regulators.

But these arguments turned out to be unsound after the passage of the 18th constitutional amendment which clearly gives mandate to the CCI to take up such issues for deliberation and decision.

The government is keenly waiting for the ruling of the Senate chairman as it would help lift the lid about the powers of the ICC defined under the 18th amendment.