ISLAMABAD - The Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination has failed to woo Prime Minister in four years for establishment of a permanent independent secretariat of the Council of Common Interests (CCI), affecting the Council’s efficiency to deal with matters related to the cohesion and coordination among provinces.

To deal with matters related to the Council of Common Interests (CCI), the IPC Ministry had moved summaries for the umpteenth time but Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has so far failed to skim them. The Premier for the last one year engaged in the ‘Panama controversy’ and could not spare time for this important matter related to the cohesion of federating units.

Apart from the ministry’s requests to constitute a separate secretariat, the prescribed rules and procedure also constitutionally bound the government to establish a permanent secretariat of the council.  “There shall be a permanent Secretariat of the Council,” says the 3rd clause of rules and procedure of “Secretariat of the Council”.

A meeting of the CCI with a dozen agenda items has been scheduled on the coming Friday (April 28) as the government in the past had faced much criticism for not calling the meetings regularly.

According to the constitution (Article-154/3), the council must meet at least once in a month and have a permanent secretariat. The government since coming into power (May 2013) has convened over dozen meetings, including July 23, 2013, July 31, 2013, February 10, 2014, May 29, 2014, and March 2015 and others, of the council.

Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah had once termed the Prime Minister a ‘traitor’ for not fulfilling his constitutional duties. “Calling quarterly meetings of the CCI is the constitutional responsibility of a PM,” Murad Ali Shah had commented.

This government had also faced criticism from other political forces but finally the meeting convened on the special instructions of the Supreme Court (SC).  The forum, constituted to resolve outstanding issues, could not be able to fully exploit its mandate. Except the population census, the forum had not properly held discussion on the fresh National Finance Commission Award and privatisation of the Public Sector Entities (PSEs) and other.

This government had also been blamed for not constituting a fresh award before the budget, which is due in May or June 2017. An idea was also floated by small provinces to deal the issue in CCI.

The three main provinces (Sindh, Balochistan and KP) had reportedly opposed the federal government’s move to place regulatory bodies, OGRA, NEPRA, PEPRA and others under the line ministries, as they proposed to place it under the Ministry of Inter Provincial Coordination and the matter may be dealt by the CCI.

Minister for IPC Riaz Pirzada had also expressed on the floor of the upper house of parliament that a summary had been moved for the establishment of a CCI-IPC Secretariat but it is awaiting the Premier’s nod. The minister had admitted that the CCI could not hold one meeting in each quarter of last year in violation of the Constitution.

Sources in IPC Ministry said that the non-formation of permanent secretariat of CCI has also creating differences within government’s ranks. An idea was also floated to devolve the IPC Ministry and form a permanent secretariat of CCI, they said.

Major opposition parties had time and again asked the government to convene meeting of CCI to dispose of pending issues for last year.

A summary recently moved from the Sindh government to CCI has also asked “the federal government to desist from using diverse forums such as the ECC and the CCoE for formulation of policy on matters falling in the part-II, fourth schedule, federal legislative list, and place all such policy matters decided by the ECC or the CCoE before the CCI for discussion and decision and strictly implement the mandate of CCI in pursuance of Article 154 of the Constitution”.

The upcoming meeting of CCI, sources said, will review the status of important decisions of the previous CCI meeting held on December 16, 2016, including inquiry into corruption charges in Kacchi Canal, matters pertaining to higher education and other similar bodies in post-18th Amendment scenario, formulation of National Flood Protection Plan-IV, import of LNG, sixth population and housing census, National Forest Policy 2015, settlement of Net Hydel Profit (NHP) issue between the WAPDA and the Government of Punjab and amendments in the  regulation of generation and transmission and distribution of Electric Power Act 199.

About CCI’s meetings, Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani had also recently referred to Article 154 (3) of the Constitution under which the council is to have a permanent secretariat and meet at least once in 30 days. He was of the view that the CCI had a huge agenda and regretted that its role was being restricted.

The experts believed that the provincial governments mainly Sindh, KP and Balochistan have difference with the central government over distribution of water and electricity, national census, privatisation of Public Sector Entities (PSEs) and matters relating to law and order situation, which need to be resolved in the CCI’s meetings.