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18 Amendment Right or Wrong?

By Shaikh Moazam Khan

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By Shaikh Moazam Khan

The state of ongoing political and economic turbulence represents a bitter reality of 18th constitutional amendment vis-à-vis National Finance Commission. According to constitutional all the provinces are enjoying provincial autonomy while dealing with state of affairs. Meanwhile Federal govt. is getting involved in provincial affairs related to public good. The global economy is melting due to pandemic. Pakistan is also in the list of affected states. Rather dealing with pandemic during these hard times, Pakistan is on the edge of political squabbling.

According to article 160 of the constitution of Pakistan, President constitutes a National Finance Commission consisting of Finance authorities of provincial and federal govt. The commission aimed at distribution of resources among all political units. The clause 160(3A) considered the share of resources and revenues must not be less than the previous one. It means the extent of share is rising in every Award. Furthermore, 18th constitutional amendment argued about the provincial autonomy while dealing with provincial affairs related to public welfare. These extremes are being undermined by the provincial bureaucracy and political mafias for individual interests. The incumbent federal govt. has come to power with a huge manifesto and facing hard time due to ill of provincial authorities.

What exactly is going on in the provinces? The provincial political power struggle between the respective political mafias and landlords. Nobody cares for a laborer, vendors, or a daily wage person who is facing not even hand to mouth situation at home. Interestingly, federal govt. has taken notice of these poor souls and their demands. It initiated Ehsaas schemes which provided both finance and ration to the needy during the pandemic hit. Interestingly, federal govt. has initiated several steps which were the responsibility of provincial governments. There a bunch of projects related to public health, drugs, energy crisis, education, public project in provinces, labor, environment, locusts and many other trans-provincial activities which were obligatory to the provinces as defined in the constitution are being performed by the federal govt. of Pakistan. During this campaign under federal govt. the traditional political approach seems to be the only barrier to take a right step by provincial governments. This approach is availability of funds to local bodies before the next general election. This has cost a huge sum by federal govt. which did not have this obligation as per law. The delay in funds means creating dependency syndrome among the poor who are ready to sell their loyalties for the sake of their survival. In such a situation democracies never prosper and flourish. It usually creates an oligarchic society where privileged class exploits the majority of a society. Pakistan is no different and heading towards such a society. During pandemic, it appears that the incumbent PM Imran Khan has relatively different approach. Mr. Khan must undertake constitutional approach in letter and spirit.

In such a scenario where the political units of any state are inefficiently performing their functions, there must be a reduction in their duties. It costs less for the greater good. The legislation should revisit the NFC award disbarment formula. It must take provincial, local, and federal govt. share in each province separately. There should be an amendment in NFC clauses according to this formula so that the provincial share must be utilized in its spirit for greater public good. By doing so, the areas of investment of these funds must be classified after negotiation between provincial and federal heads of governments. A unified mutual approach is an essential part to deal with political and economic meltdown.

Pakistan has a great potential. It is equipped with massive natural resources and human power. It has emerging economy and strong army.  It has long waited a sincere leadership who can challenge the political power elite hegemony. The process of accountability led by federal govt. has cautioned traditional political mafia. The hold in respective provinces and constitutional legitimacy provided them immunities. The constitutional changes are required now. PM Imran Khan should propose equitable legislation so that proper utilization of resources for the sake of economic and political growth. The constitutional changes focused on NFC and 18th constitutional amendment are required. It will urge all political units to entertain a just cause which is Pakistan heading towards a peace and prosperity.

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