ISLAMABAD: Reassuring federating units of ‘all possible cooperation’, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has moved to allay concerns of the provinces with regard to their share in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), provision of funds and energy sector.
During an all-important meeting of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) on Friday, the PM assured the chief ministers of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and Sindh – the provinces where opposition parties are in power – that their outstanding funds amounting to billions of rupees would be issued ‘at the earliest’ and their concerns on the CPEC would be ‘resolved amicably’, well-placed sources said.
K-P CM Pervez Khattak had left a recent meeting of the Joint Cooperation Council (JCC) in protest over non-inclusion of Rashakai Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in the CPEC. The SEZ was later included in the CPEC.
Apart from Khattak, Sindh CM Murad Ali Shah, Balochistan CM Sanaullah Zehri, Finance Minister Punjab Aisha Ghous Pasha, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Law Minister Zahid Hamid, Power Minister Awais Leghari and other senior officials showed up at the Friday huddle.
This was the second CCI meeting in less than two weeks. The last CCI meeting was held on November 13. The Friday’s moot took place at a time when the federal government is trying to get Senate’s approval to a crucial bill on delimitation of constituencies in the light of provisional results of census 2017.
However, the government has not been able to ensure the required two-thirds majority due to apparent lack of interest shown by two opposition forces, the PPP and the PTI.
During the previous CCI meeting, the PM had succeeded in winning support of K-P and Sindh over proposed legislation on delimitation of constituencies, and the Centre was able to seek the National Assembly’s nod when the related bill was moved. The bill now seeks Senate’s approval to become a law and would be moved in the upper house on the coming Monday.
An official statement said the Statistics Division gave a detailed presentation to the CCI on the issue of third-party validation of census results. It was decided that one per cent random sampling of the census data would be enhanced to 5 per cent and “every effort would be made to complete the process within the shortest possible time”.
The meeting also agreed to ‘real-time monitoring’ by the provinces of the electricity production, allocation of power to each distribution company (DISCO) and duration of load-shedding. Similar mechanism would be made available for the gas sector also.
It decided that the concerns of the provinces over the issue of import of liquefied natural gas (LNG) would be sent to the related ministry and the issue would be discussed in the next meeting of the CCI along with views of the concerned ministry.
The meeting decided to constitute a National Task Force on Education Standards to deal with devolution of the powers of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to provincial bodies according to the 18th constitutional amendment.
“The task force would look into the issues related to curriculum, medium of instruction etc, and would make recommendations for bringing uniformity and improving quality of education across the country,” the statement added.
On the issue of provision of gas to localities falling within five kilometres radius of gas production fields, it was decided that all expenditures involved would be borne by DISCOs.
“In case of province of Balochistan, provision of gas to the nearest tehsil headquarters or district headquarters, as the case may be, would be ensured,” it added.
The meeting decided that the existing committee constituted under the National Finance Commission (NFC) would be further mandated to ensure better coordination of the senior officials of finance divisions of the provinces and the federal government in matters relating to fiscal consolidation on the issue of establishment of the Fiscal Coordination Committee.
In order to resolve issues relating to the Employees Old-Age Benefit Institution (EOBI) and Workers Welfare Fund in post 18th constitutional amendment scenario, the meeting decided to constitute a sub-committee. The CCI approved a proposal by the Ministry for Energy for amendment to Petroleum Exploration and Production Policy, 2012.
The CCI meeting also acceded to the request of the K-P government to grant one-time relaxation for the award of one new exploration block to each provincial holding company (PHC) without competitive bidding.
The National Water Policy was also presented during the meeting. It was decided that a committee would be constituted for detailed scrutiny and analysis of the proposed policy.
Over the issue of export of surplus sugar, the meeting decided to recommend the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) to allow export of 1.5 million metric tonnes sugar during fiscal year 2017-18. The existing subsidy level on the exports would continue.
The issue of net hydel profits was also discussed during the CCI meeting. It was informed that the issue of the two provinces had been “amicably resolved during the meeting with PM.”