ISLAMABAD - The Islamabad High Court (IHC) was informed yesterday that Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh has been removed from the National Finance Commission (NFC).

In this regard, Attorney General for Pakistan Khalid Javed Khan presented a new notification before the two-member bench of IHC comprising Jutice Aamer Farooq and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb during hearing of a petition of PML-N MNA Khurram Dastgir challenging the notification regarding constitution of National Finance Commission (NFC). During the hearing, the AGP submitted before the court a new notification about the formation of NFC.

He told the court that the earlier notification appointing Hafeez Sheikh to the commission, which had been challenged in court, has now been withdrawn.

In this matter, the petitioner’s lawyer adopted that the Constitution of Pakistan explicitly states that the country is to be run by elected representatives. He contended that nowhere in the constitution does it state that the PM’s adviser on finance can be the convener instead of the finance minister.

The NFC is meant to distribute financial resources among the federal government and the provinces. It includes distribution of taxes collected by the federal government which form a divisible pool.

According to Article 160 of the Constitution, the president constitutes the NFC after every five years for a period of five years. Once there is a consensus of all stakeholders on a particular formula to distribute the finances, the award is implemented for the next five years.

The PTI-led federal government on May 12 formed the 10th NFC to announce the new Award. The Ministry of Finance notified constitution of the 11-member commission after approval by federal and provincial members and its terms of reference by President Arif Alvi.

The commission will, however, effectively consist of 10 members as the president also authorized the Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh to chair NFC meetings in the absence of the federal finance minister.

In his petition, Dastgir requested the court to declare the said notification as illegal being ultra vires sub-articles (1) and (2) of Article 160 of the Constitution.

He termed the notification as unconstitutional and liable to be set aside. He prayed to the court to declare that in the exercise of their functions under Article 160, the President is bound to act on and in accordance with the advice of the Federal Cabinet or the Prime Minister where the governors of the provinces are bound to act on and in accordance with the advice of the Provincial Cabinets or the Chief Minister and absence of such advice shall render the appointments process defective.

The petitioner further prayed to the court to declare that the impugned notification dated 12th May, 2020 cannot be given retrospective effect and any proceeding of the Commission which took place prior to May 12, 2020 were of no legal effect.