islamabad - Chairman Senate Mian Raza Rabbani has said that interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan on part of IMF and other financial institutions with regard to distribution of powers under 18th Constitutional Amendment and creation of an impression about the NFC as a useless exercise is highly worrisome. 

While referring to the IMF report, the Chairman Senate made it clear that Pakistan is an independent state which will not bow before the dictates of IMF or any other international financial institution. 

While addressing a seminar titled “Fiscal Federalism” at the Institute of Parliamentary Services, he said that a centrist mindset was creating hurdles in the way of smooth implementation of 18th Constitutional Amendment and a frivolous interpretation was being given to delay announcement of the new National Finance Commission (NFC) Award.  He termed as wrong the interpretation given by the bureaucracy that it was not necessary to announce the NFC Award after every five years. Mian Raza Rabbani said the interpretation was ridiculous and against the Constitution. He lamented the delay in the announcement of NFC Award and said that it had been reported that secretary finance while taking chief secretaries of four provinces onboard in a meeting had decided to present the upcoming budget without NFC. He termed this act on the part of bureaucracy tantamount to the violation of the relevant articles of the Constitution.

  “When the Parliament is there how can the bureaucracy decide on such matters?” Raza Rabbani remarked.

He further said the government, in connivance with the World Bank had drafted a bill to control and exercise influence over the matters related to distribution of resources which was against the spirit of Constitution and the 18th Amendment.  He observed that a proper mechanism was laid down and Council of Common Interest was strengthened as a parallel institution to the federal cabinet to manage the affairs between the centre and provinces and to ensure equal distribution of resources as per the spirit of Article 172 of the Constitution.  He reiterated that strong provinces would guarantee a strong federation and there was a dire need to implement 18th Constitutional Amendment in letter and spirit to achieve the goal of a stronger, democratic and true federalist Pakistan.  Mian Raza Rabbani termed the seminar a step in the right direction and hoped that the experts would formulate solid recommendations through exchange of knowledge and ideas while keeping in view the political, democratic and constitutional background in mind and the outcomes of the seminar would go a long way in achieving the desired objectives. 

Secretary Senate Amjed Pervez Malik said that the concept of fiscal federalism is not new since almost all federal states have been practicing fiscal federalism in one form and the other.  He said that Pakistan is federal country and distribution of resources has impact on income, development, backwardness and poverty. 

He said that the Senate is expected to play a more effective role towards ensuring a conducive fiscal federalism.  However, this may not be possible without giving the Upper House more powers and say in financial matters. 

An international expert, Hans Altherr said that some of the important questions surrounding the issue of strengthening federalism, and the role of the Upper House here in Pakistan would be considered.

He said that this seminar was the first of what they hoped will be many such interactions with the Senate, which could be organised in close collaboration with the Senate Secretariat of Pakistan. The Forum of Federations, he said, seeks to strengthen democratic governance by promoting dialogue and understanding the values, practices, principles, and possibilities of federalism and decentralization.

In Pakistan, the Forum has been active since 2009 and providing intellectual resources to those seeking to strengthen its federation, providing expertise in areas such as fiscal federalism and intergovernmental relations.

Executive Director PIPS Zafarullah Khan said that resource distribution had always been a contentious issue in history.  He said that out of seven NFC Awards, only three were actually negotiated and announced by democratically elected governments.  He said that political leadership had the wisdom to resolve various issues. Dr. Ishrat Hussain, Dr. Kaiser Bengali and others also shared their views during the event.