Expressing concern over the petroleum minister’s statement on reversing the gas distribution formula decided in the 18th Amendment, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief cautioned the government against disturbing the settled issues of devolution.
Fazl on Sunday said issues of provincial autonomy and devolution were comprehensively covered in the 18th Amendment, which was unanimously passed by parliament.
Terming the petroleum minister’s statement ‘unfortunate’ he said, “The common perception that only Punjab’s needs are being catered to at the expense of smaller provinces, minorities and marginalised communities, will only spread misunderstanding among the provinces and cause provincialism”.
Fazl, who is in alliance with the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz though not yet in the cabinet, aligned himself with opposition parties particularly Pakistan Peoples Party which has vowed to put up resistance to any government move on undoing the 18th Amendment.
Reacting strongly to petroleum minister’s statement, the Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Khursheed Shah has already said that his party would resist any move by the PML-N to deprive the smaller provinces of their right provided under the 18th amendment. Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had earlier on Friday stated that provinces have been asked to make necessary changes in order to rationalise the gas sharing formula so as to get maximum economic output.
The JUI-F chief said that the 18th amendment decided distribution of resources between the provinces and the federation through consensus. Expressing discontent, he added that even the energy policy had been decided before the Council of Common Interests meeting was held.
He pointed out that health, education, heritage and climate change ministries were still in Islamabad. “No boards have been established to ensure implementation of 50% of the provinces’ share in gas and energy resources; petroleum ministry and public power institutions are still being run by vested interests,” said the JUI-F chief.
He called for revisiting articles 158 to 162 of the Constitution to establish subsidiaries for implementation of the 18th Amendment.
He also advised PML-N to avoid centralised tendencies and preferably establish an oversight and watchdog role for the compliance of the 18th Amendment in letter and spirit so as to strengthen federalism and provincial autonomy agreed in the constitutional amendment.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the second largest party in opposition, has also expressed concern over the proposed reversal of the gas distribution formula. PTI has also vowed to put up resistance from the floor of the assembly against any such move by the government.
At present, about 66% of natural gas is being produced in Sindh, 20% in Balochistan, 10% in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and four per cent in Punjab.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 5th, 2013.