ISLAMABAD - The meeting of Council of Common Interests (CCI) on Wednesday decided to hold 6th population census in March next year with the support of armed forces, as was done in 1998, and its cost would be borne by the provinces through the federal divisible pool.

The CCI also decided in principle to restore the executive magistracy system across the country for which proper legislation would be made through parliament.

The matter was pending with the CCI for quite some time and could not be decided due to the reservations of some participants.

It was further decided in the meeting chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that housing census would also be held along with the population census, according to a press release issued by PM’s media section.

The long overdue meeting of CCI also gave formal approval to the draft bill for the establishment of Pakistan Halal Authority and Power Generation Policy 2015, besides taking up a number of other important matters concerning the provinces which were pending for long as the CCI could not meet for well over nine months.

Provinces were directed to frame rules and complete other formalities at the earliest for absorption of federal employees transferred to provincial governments in the wake of 18th Constitutional Amendment.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar informed the meeting that public debt has been brought down from 64 percent to 62 percent in less than two years and by June 2016 it would be further brought down to 60 percent as required under the law.

The meeting was informed that proceedings on Pakistan Energy Efficiency and Energy Conservation Bill 2014, has been completed and soon it would be presented in the Parliament. The prime minister directed for its early presentation in the parliament.

Water and Power secretary gave a presentation on Power Generation Policy 2015 which was in-principle approved by the CCI. Any subsequent reservations on the policy of the stakeholders will be removed by the Water and Power ministry, it was agreed.

CCI gave approval of the Pakistan Oil (Refining, Blending, Transportation Storage and Marketing) Rules which will repeal some of existing 1971 Rules. The new rules cover all the functions assigned to Ogra under the Ordinance in respect of midstream and downstream oil sector and were prepared in consultation with stakeholders including the provinces. The meeting also approved amendment in petroleum policies of 2009 and 2012 and Model Petroleum Concession Agreement.

CCI gave approval of the draft bill for the establishment of Pakistan Halal Authority. The meeting was informed that this will allow Pakistan to benefit from the huge potential that exists in the international market of Halal business worth trillions of dollars, bulk of which is being taken away by non-Muslim countries. The scope of Halal sector covers a wide range of items such as food, pharmaceuticals, health, food supplements and toiletries etc. Currently, Pakistan is taking only a nominal share of this huge export potential, due to non-existence of a legal and recognised authority at the national level dealing with the Halal sector.

Nepra’s annual report for 2012-13 and State of Industry Report, 2013 was presented before the CCI. Pursuant to Section 42 of Nepra Act, it is mandatory for Nepra to submit its annual report for following financial year and state of industry report for following calendar year to the CCI.

The prime minister expressed his dissatisfaction over the working of regulatory authorities which were created in view of the privatisation of government entities. However, privatisation did not take place while regulatory authorities are continuing to work. He directed Nepra to streamline its procedures at the earliest to facilitate energy businesses.

Item related to short supplies of water in Pat-feeder and Kirthar canals was deferred due to the non-availability of Balochistan chief minister, who is out of country and could not attend CCI meeting. Regarding the construction of Chashma Right Bank Canal it was agreed that Water and Power ministry would discuss modalities with the government of KP.

Regarding agenda item on matters pertaining to higher education in post 18th amendment scenario, the meeting decided that a committee would be formed under the planning minister regarding working of Higher Education Commission and similar bodies in the provinces. Earlier, the Prime Minister held meeting with chief ministers Shahbaz Sharif (Punjab), Qaim Ali Shah (Sindh) and Parvez Khattak (KP) in which matters of mutual interest came under discussion.

The meeting was also attended by IPC Minister Riaz Hussain Pirzada; Minister for Overseas Pakistanis Pir Syed Sadruddin Shah Rashidi; Safron Minister Lt-Gen (r) Abdul Quadir Baloch; Religious Affairs Minister Sardar Muhammad Yousuf; Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal; Water and Power Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif; Science and Technology Minister Rana Tanveer Hussain; Minister of State for Petroleum Jam Kamal; Balochistan Power Minister Sardar Muhammad Aslam Bizenjo and Sindh Finance Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah among senior government officials.