Tussle over devolution of five Pakistan ministries

Islamabad, Nov 10 (IANS) The provincial governments have locked horns with the federal government in Pakistan over transfer of powers of five ministries and greater autonomy to the provinces.

The 18th amendment to the Pakistani constitution was passed in July this year, making it obligatory for the federal government to devolve those ministries to the provinces that form part of the concurrent list.

These ministries are local government, zakat and ushr, youth affairs, special initiatives and population welfare.

The implementation committee chairman, Senator Raza Rabbani told mediapersons Wednesday, ‘The reservations of all stakeholders would be discussed in detail and consensus will be developed over contentious issues before finalising the devolution plan’.

The provinces have demanded that Islamabad should pay all outstanding dues owed by these ministries besides providing additional grant to run these ministries.

At present, some revenue is generated by the provinces on their own while they get a share from the federal government based on their requirement as per the National Finance Commission (NFC).

The provinces have also demanded that the employees of the federal government departments, which are now being devolved, should be kept in the surplus pool of the central government instead of surrendering them to the provinces, the Daily Express reported Wednesday.

After these five ministries in the first phase, five more ministries are also set to be transferred to the provinces in the next phase.

‘The provinces feel that these employees will prove an additional burden on the exchequer besides resulting in a clash of interest with the employees of provincial services,’ sources informed IANS.

At present, all provinces have their own service cadres for employees and only the high-ranking officials belonging to central superior services (CSPs) are posted by the central government in provinces.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani chaired a meeting of the council of common ideologies (CCI) Monday while another meeting of the implementation committee chaired by Senator Raza Rabbani Tuesday could not resolve the deadlock.

The provinces have also made it clear to the implementation committee that ‘it will not be possible to start the devolution process without addressing these issues’ whereas ‘the process of requisite legislation should also be completed before going ahead with the agreed plan’.

Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh announced a few days back that the ministries would be handed over to the provinces by end November.

(Awais Saleem can be contacted at ians.pakistan@gmail.com)

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