That anything is happening in the country despite the NRO verdict may be claimed as a virtue of the government, but it does not stop the examination of any steps taken. One of the organisations which continues to move has been the Parliamentary Committee on the Constitution, chaired by Senator Raza Rabbani. The committee drew attention because it was supposed to solve three problems: first, it was supposed to tell how the constitution was to be purged of the changes wrought in it by General (retd) Pervez Mush-arraf through the 17th Amendment; second, it was supposed to solve the issue of the quantum of provincial autonomy, which was an issue close to the hearts of the Baloch nationalists now up in arms; and third, to have the NWFP renamed. The Supreme Court verdict did not take any notice of the committees work, but it was supposed - wrongly, as it turned out - that it would stop the work of the committee. However, the committee has pursued its work, the very appearance of nor-malcy that it gave was itself supportive of the government. Though the government has passed the crucial stage of the Supreme Courts announcing its detailed judgement in the case, it has not shown any signs of implementing it. However, the Rabbani Committee has proceeded to consider the Lists, and has made recommendations which would bring about radical changes in the constitution without affecting the present governments. The Lists, which are in a schedule to the constitution, are the determinants of how much provincial autonomy actually exists. Actually, there are three Lists, because the Federal List has two parts, and while there is no Provincial List, there is a Concurrent List. The two parts exist because the 1973 constitution was framed for a country which had just had half secede, and which had created four provinces once again where there had been a single province of a two-province country. Certain subjects, wh-ich had previously fallen within the purview of the province would now either have to be split up among the provinces, or passed to the federal government. These included the railways and the irrigation system, which was also used, through the major dams, for hydel generation. In other words, Pakistan Railways and WAPDA. The Federal List Part II also covered nationalised industries, or any enterprises established by the state. This not only covered the enterprises set up when Pakistan was very capitalist, in the 1960s, but also the large array of private enterprises nationalised by the Bhutto government. One of the aspects of the 1973 constitution that deserves examination is how it was designed to be used by a socialist state. In this, the role of the Federal List Part II would figure prominently. The provinces get the residuary powers, those which are not mentioned in either List. Thus neither List mentions health, education or law and order; they are entirely provincial subjects. The Concurrent List consists of the subjects over which the federal government has the executive authority, but the legislation lies with both Parliament (for the whole country) and the respective provincial assemblies, for their provinces. In fact, the Lists are there to delineate the federal and provincial legislative competences, and executive authority follows legislative power. Since the federal Parliament is given the power of a provincial legislature over federally administered areas, like the federal capital territory and the northern areas, the federal government maintains ministries dealing with provincial subjects. Another function such federal ministries have is to coordinate among the provincial departments, mainly over any foreign aid they might be receiving. However, these ministries provide a powerful federal voice in provincial affairs, which was not contemplated by the constitution itself. As an economy measure, it was proposed that these ministries be abolished, and replaced by a wing under the PM secretariat. However, this was shot down, and these ministries continue to exist, providing slots for bureaucrats and portfolios for ministers, but performing little useful for the country as a whole. The committee wants to abolish the Concurrent List. This would be in fulfilment of the original intention of the drafters, who saw these subjects as being in the domain of the provinces, but which required central handling. That also explains the constitutional provision-making Parliament responsible for legislation on a provincial subject if two or more provincial assemblies pass resolutions requesting it. This gives the Centre legislative authority, creating laws which apply throughout the country, and thus creating uniformity, but allows the provincial governments to go on exercising exe-cutive authority. It should be mentioned that such laws can be amended by the Provincial Assembly which wants to. However, on Concurrent List subjects, federal legislation is supposed to have precedence, and is supposed to render invalid any contradiction between federal and provincial laws. Who adjudicates any difference? The superior courts which alone have the power of interpreting the law. The foundation of any Pakistani federalism must be the division of powers and functions between the federation and the provinces. Yet another player has emerged, the local bodies. In the last bout of martial law, the local bodies were given money, and large amounts of the provincial budgets were committed to the local councils, which had their functions increased. However, the corresponding shift promised, of functions from the central government to the provincial, never took place. Thus any shift of powers, which would be achieved by abolishing the Concurrent List and deleting items from the Federal List (thereby automatically placing them in the category of 'residuary powers, and thus provincial preserves for both legislation and the exercise of executive authority), would mean strengthening provincial governments weakened by giving some of their powers to the local bodies. There is the question of how much would the provinces still require if the committee recommendations were to be passed by Parliament. There is always the danger of provinces learning the lesson that making a lot of noise would lead to results, not otherwise. Already, the committee has received a proposal that the federation should only have defence, communications, foreign affairs and currency (not the economy) as its subjects, the rest falling to the provinces. That is a demand on which Pakistan broke in 1971. The committee was mandated to look at all constitutional provisions, but it was primarily meant to look at the additions made by military rulers, the latest through the 17th Amendment, to the constitution. The constitution as it stands actually grants substantial autonomy to the provinces, which was the price paid then of having the NAP on board in the constitution-making pro-ject. However, the Council of Common Interests, through which the provinces were supposed to give an input into Federal List Part II subjects, was not operationalised. Then there have been two martial laws, in which the provincial heads of government were not elected separately from the federal, but his military subordinates. These subjects melted into the federal mix. The committee therefore is supposed to give great emphasis to the CIIs being made functional. If the committee was to see to the operationalisation of the existing provisions of the constitution, it would do a service that would obviate the need to increase the amount of provincial autonomy. After all, there is no point in so increasing the autonomy that we end up sacrificing the federation. That, it must never be forgotten, was what happened in 1971. E-mail: