Pakistan's Premier Multilingual News Agency

Amending NFC Award

Adeel Mukhtar

The amendment in the National Finance Commission (NFC) has been a hot topic in Pakistan’s politics. Recently, the federal government “has decided to revisit the National Finance Commission (NFC) award and 18th Amendment,” a private TV channel reported.

As per various open sources, political parties have been approached by the Federal government in order to create consensus for amendments in NFC award and 18th Amendment. “Some political parties have assured support to the Centre for the changes in the NFC award and the 18th Amendment,” added sources. Moreover, Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar has said “some flaws have been noticed in the 18th Amendment”. According to him, “18th Amendment was a step in right direction, but the process is incomplete yet as it gave powers to provincial governments, but the local governments are still powerless”. He said “problems cannot be resolved until the federal and provincial governments work in coordination”.

Mr. Asad Umar was speaking in Anchor Shahzad Iqbal’s “Naya Pakistan” programme of Geo News. Mr. Asad Umar said that “the Centre does not want to take back any powers from provinces neither it is the war of powers.” He further said that “the Centre wants to work with provinces in coordination for development of the country. He said all the political parties must sit together to discuss the issue.” The minister was of the opinion that “a secretariat of Council of Common Interests (CCI) was to be made after 18th Amendment, but the previous two governments did not set up such secretariat”. However, he said, “the federal cabinet has now decided to establish the CCI secretariat”.

However, the Pakistan People Party’s Parliamentary Leader in the Senate Senator Sherry Rehman said that “18th Amendment is a sacred part of the Constitution and is guarantor of an amicable relationship between the federation and its units. Talking to The News/Jang Sunday from Karachi, she said “the PPP had the distinction of sponsoring amendment like the original Constitution of 1973.” She further divulged that “the PPP or any other opposition group was negotiating with the government to bring about an amendment to the 18th Amendment or change it in any manner”. She said “it was incomprehensible as to why the ruling party was engaged in such useless kite-flying which was of no use. There is no need for touching such sensitive subjects at this point in time. We are supposed to fight the coronavirus and protect the country and our people from the pandemics and the government was busy in rumour mongering which has no base”. Senator Rehman said “the amendment could be a desire of the government alone but it is not the time to ponder about it. The mechanism for constitutional amendment has been provided in the book and the government should understand and follow that”.

The Government of Pakistan is bound by the Constitution of Pakistan to NFC Award. According to the Article 160 of the “Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973”, it is mandatory to work toward the composition of NFC Award “at an interval extending not more than five years for the amicable resource distribution among the federation and its respective units”. According to Article 160 of the Constitution, “after every five years the president will constitute the NFC for a period of five years”. Most recently, President Dr Arif Alvi had reconstituted the 9th NFC Award to formulate a new resource distribution formula between the Centre and federating units.

The Federal Government is performing large number of functions, which are otherwise the responsibility of the Provincial Governments. This includes matters relating to Public health, drugs, dams, education, public projects in Provinces, labour, environment, locusts and many other Trans Provincial activities, which are obligations of the Provinces but have to be performed by Federal Government. All these activities cost a huge sum. Likewise, the Constitution though require financing and functioning of Local Governments, yet they have no funds available directly. Therefore, the NFC Award should reflect these important aspects and the Provincial share in the NFC Award should be equitably divided into three portions i.e., 1. Provincial Government share; 2. Local Government share; and 3. Federal Government share for the works done by Federal Govt. on behalf of the Provinces. In this context, the NFC award should reflect this distribution and should be amended accordingly.