PESHAWAR -  Pakistan People’s Party Senator Farhatullah Babar on Thursday said that a systematic encroachment on powers is taking place at three levels in the country and called for measures to reverse the trend.

The unelected establishment is seeking to take over the functions of the elected government, he said. And within the elected structures, the federation is encroaching upon the domain of provinces which in turn are reluctant to give powers to the local governments in accordance with the Constitution, he said.

He was addressing a seminar on devolution organised by the Senate Committee on devolution at a local hotel here on Thursday.

The issue of state institutions working within their limits has been thoroughly discussed recently in the Senate and the chairman Senate reserved his ruling which is expected to be announced in the forthcoming senate session, he added.

The PPP senator maintained that nowhere is this encroachment within elected structures obvious as in the resistance to devolution in the petroleum sector and placing regulatory bodies underline ministries instead of CCI and making the conflict resolution body Council of Common Interest almost redundant, he said.

He said that Article 172 (3) clearly lays down that mineral oil and natural gas within the province or the territorial waters adjacent thereto shall vest jointly and equally in that province and the federal government.

But the Senate was shocked last month when moves came to surface that the federal government planned to set up a Petroleum Exploration and Production Regulatory Authority to solely grant the lucrative petroleum rights and upstream activities in the country with no role for provinces. But for the Senate’ timely and powerful intervention the federal government would have got away with robbing the provinces of their rights in the petroleum sector, he remarked.

He said that as a result of the refusal of the constitutional right of the provinces not a single block has been offered to bidding since 2014 out of 35 pending blocks. The leases awarded before 2012 have also expired and not renewed causing a loss of billions to both federal and provincial KPK governments in royalty.

Babar said that the provinces should have their own regulatory authorities for concession management in accordance with the Constitution 18th amendment. The proposed regulatory authority should only regulate pricing and concession management of offshore, FATA, Azad Kashmir, and Gilgit-Baltistan.

Furthermore, the chairman of this body should be appointed on rotation from the federation and all four provinces, he said.

He said that federal government had neither awarded exploration contracts nor allowed provinces to do so during the last five years and asked Why? Is it because that some powerful lobbies and vested interests are deliberately withholding development of petroleum sector to allow for imports of LNG and called for thorough investigations in the matter

He said that the 2012 Petroleum policy also states that the policy will be revisited after five years and asked why it had not been done so far.

He said provinces should also look inwardly and devolve powers genuinely to local governments to create a strong moral base for demanding their rights from the federation.

The smaller provinces should also join hands in requisitioning meetings of CCI in case the federation was reluctant to do so.

Senate’s Functional Committee on Devolution Process Chairman Senator Kabir Ahmad Muhammad Shahi on Thursday said that democracy and federal form of government is a source of strengthening to country and constitution of Pakistan devices layout to protect rights of the provinces within this system.

He was elaborating points of ‘Peshawar Declaration’ agreed by participants of a Consultative meeting on “Implementation of 18th Constitutional Amendment’ arranged by Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services (PIPS) in cooperation with German Foundation Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) and Senate’s Functional Committee on Devolution Process.

The declaration said that 18th amendment has not only augmented principles of democratic, parliamentary and federal structure but also expanded the view of participation, joint ownership of natural resources and administration.

It is the joint responsibility of federation and federating units to take steps for implementation of the 18th amendment in letter and spirit. He said that basic and higher education is the right of people under the constitution of Pakistan.

Higher Education Commission laws need to be amended after 18th constitutional amendment and it should be devolved as soon as possible.

He said that share of provinces should be decided in funds given to Higher Education Commission. He said that renaming of ministries devolves to provinces tantamount to usurping the rights of provinces.

Hindrance in transferring assets of devolved ministries to provinces is regrettable. 8th National Finance Commission Award should be announced and federation should strengthen the role of provinces under the 18th amendment.

Council of Common Interest (CCI) should be strengthened and its permanent secretariat should be established. Strong relations should be developed between senate and provinces for ensuring implementation of the 18th amendment.

Powers of senate including relating to monetary affairs are needed to be strengthened for implementation of the 18th amendment. The resolution passed by senate in this connection should be fully implemented, the declaration demanded.

 

Our Staff Reporter