ISLAMABAD/LAHORE - The Council of Common Interests (CCI) on Thursday gave in-principle approval to the recommendations of its committee about equitable distribution of electricity in the country. This decision came at the Council’s 10th meeting – chaired by Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf at his secretariat, after the passage of the 18th Constitutional Amendment.The meeting, which was attended by the chief ministers and ministers, decided that the recommendations of a CCI-formed body about equitable distribution of electricity be given approval. To draw up the mechanics of implementation of its decision, the Council decided to put Finance Ministry’s principal officer on the committee as its eleventh member.During the debate on a report presented by the committee, Prime Minister Ashraf ordered the federal and provincial governments to clear their electricity bills promptly, and said “If anyone has had any complaints about overbilling, the same be settled within a month.” The premier emphasised that the determination of upfront tariff was in the national interest and would pave the way for investors to invest in the power sector without wasting time. It was decided that a standing committee would be set up to examine/scrutinise the cases/issues, enumerated in the Federal Legislative List (Part II), which had to be placed before the CCI.Headed by the Inter-Provincial Coordination Division secretary, the committee will draw the CCI joint secretary, law secretary and secretaries Inter-Provincial Coordination of the provincial governments as its members. About the functioning of the NEPRA (National Electric and Power Regulatory Authority), the prime minister felt that it should have in-house capability and expertise to determine upfront tariff for the power plants run on coal, wind, solar, bio-gas, gas, oil etc. “This tariff should provide incentives and be aimed at attracting investors,” he remarked. The meeting was informed that work on the draft electricity law needed to be expedited. Premier Ashraf directed the Water and Power secretary in her capacity as the Cabinet Division secretary to coordinate with the NEPRA to work out the upfront tariff.The meeting was also informed that the governments of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had notified police officials and other staff to help power distribution companies recover dues and check electricity pilferage. The CCI, however, deferred the issue of renaming the Ministry of Professional and Technical Training as the Ministry of Education and Training to its next meeting. In its meetings of August 11, 15 and September 15, the Council came up with the various recommendations, including those of not changing the formula of electricity distribution (to power companies) in practice since 2006, and KESC using its idle capacity to reduce its 650 MW import from the national grid by 300 MW. According to the recommendation for financing/investment in the hydro power projects (where financing has not yet been committed), the provinces may contribute as investors in financing through an SPV/holding company. Moreover, the proposals and schemes prepared by the federal government about switching streetlights to solar energy, and distributing solar chargeable CFLs and UPS will be looked into for further action after a detailed study by the provinces. The recommendation says that the draft electricity act and conservation of energy law, and open access policy will be presented to the CCI for further processing. It says that provincial police departments will place a DSP with 40 staff members at the disposal of each electricity distribution company for the recovery of bills and checking power theft. In this case, financial liabilities will be borne by the power distribution companies, however.Projects of power generation and power conservation should be duly budgeted as a defined share in provincial annual development programme(s), according to the recommendation.During the debate, the prime minister directed the federal and provincial governments to clear their electricity bills. He said if any person or body had any complaints about overbilling, these should be settled within a month.The meeting also debated the issue of provincial representation in federal entities. The government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa suggested that the provinces be given at least 40 per cent representation in the management boards of all such institutions, regulatory bodies and other entities falling within the purview of subjects and items of the Federal Legislative List Part-II.Under the proposal, the CCI may also call from the ministries data – such as lists of entities, laws governing them, composition and power of their management boards – related to all such institutions. The CCI debated the matter, but put it to its next meeting for further consideration. Another item on the agenda of the meeting was the approval of the National Mineral Policy 2012. The matter was discussed in detail and approval to the policy was given by the CCI subject to concurrence by the Sindh chief minister.The Council, while discussing the progress made by it towards implementation of its decisions, was informed that in its nine meetings it considered 54 issues from federal as well as provincial governments and most of the decisions it took were implemented. Earlier, Prime Minister Ashraf, in his opening remarks, claimed that his government honoured the decisions of the courts. He appreciated the role of all the state organs towards democracy in the country. The government, averred the premier, was fully committed to its political and constitutional obligations and believed in strengthening of institutions in their own spheres. The government, promised Ashraf, would provide an opportunity to the people to elect a government of their own choice, through free‚ fair and transparent elections. He said the Council in its nine meetings discussed and took decisions on the various issues of national importance. He called the CCI an iconic institution of federalism and, claimed it had strengthened the confidence of all the federating units. The CCI meanwhile approved its second annual report to be placed before both the houses of Parliament under Article 153 (4) of the Constitution. The report covers CCI’s proceedings of February 9 and August 27.The meeting was attended by Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif, Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti, Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani, Minister for Communications Dr Arbab Alamgir Khan, Minister for Science & Technology Mir Changez Khan Jamali, Minister for Inter Provincial Coordination Mir Hazar Khan Bijarani, Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Minister for Defence Syed Naveed Qamar, Minister for Railways Haji Ghulam Ahmad Bilour, Minister for Education & Training Sheikh Waqas Akram, the secretaries of Cabinet/Water & Power, Finance, Planning & Development, Education & Training, Law & Justice, Railways, Economic Affairs and Religious Affairs departments, IPO Pakistan chairman, NEPRA chief, chief secretaries of Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and other senior officials.During the CCI meeting, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif expressed his views in detail about the problems facing Punjab due to power loadshedding. He demanded that just distribution of electricity be ensured to all the provinces. The participants of the meeting accepted his demand for putting in the national grid system 300 MW electricity and distributing it judiciously among the provinces. Balochistan Chief Minister Aslam Raisani and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Amir Haider Hoti seconded the viewpoint of Shahbaz Sharif and termed it as based on facts. Shanbaz said that just distribution of electricity was the constitutional and moral right of all the provinces. He expressed the hope that the early implementation of this CCI decision would be ensured.Prime Minister Raja Ashraf meanwhile met with the chief ministers, and informed them on his recent visit to Laos, where he addressed the Asia Europe Summit Meeting (ASEM). He told them that his meeting with various heads of states at the sidelines of the summit was very useful. The premier appreciated the keenness shown by the chief ministers in CCI meetings which, according to him, would go a long way to strengthen the CCI and make it more effective. He expressed the confidence that collective wisdom for the resolution of issues of national importance was in keeping with the democratic spirit.