The PML-N government has finally decided to call Council of Common Interests (CCI), in the coming month to debate ‘matters of national importance’. After over 8 months, a formal summary has been sent to the PM to get approval for it, calling it a much-awaited meeting where key concerns of Sindh and Khyber Pakthunkhwa will also be discussed.

The CCI is an arcane platform, but its powers and potential impact are anything but. As set out in Article 154(1) of the Constitution, “The Council shall formulate and regulate policies in relation to matters in Part II of the Federal Legislative List and shall exercise supervision and control over related institutions.”

The government is bound to call the council at least once in three months. But PML-N government has held only five, instead of required nine, CCI meetings since its coming into power in May 2013 and opposition parties (particularly PPP, PTI and MQM) have time and again criticized them for it.

The provincial governments, except for that of Punjab, have difference with the central government over distribution of water and electricity, national census, privatization of Public Sector Entities (PSEs) and matters relating to law and order situation. They also have grave reservations about the route of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

It is clear that the opposition parties will give the government a tough time in the meeting, and rightfully so. Each one of those agenda items could consume an entire meeting by itself. Now, owing to the tardiness and neglect of the federal government, they are all on the agenda of the same meeting. The government itself appears to be aware of the practical need to convene the CCI, with meetings scheduled in recent months but then not held for reasons not explained by either the Ministry for Inter Provincial Coordination or the Prime Minister’s Office, the PM being the chairman of the CCI.

The neglect of the CCI also underlines a wider problem: the government’s almost total lack of interest in institution building and preference for ad hoc, extra-parliamentary and extra-institutional decision-making. The lack of interest in the proceedings of the National Assembly, the virtual shunning of the Senate, the sidelining of parliamentary committees — they are all pieces in a system where the federal government prefers to take decisions in small, informal forums and then gets the formal institutions to rubber-stamp those decisions.