ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet will meet on Wednesday in a special session to formally approve the plan to kick start the devolution formula envisaged in the 18th amendment.
The control of around two dozen ministries and divisions will be delegated from the centre to the provinces.
To be presided over by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, the cabinet meeting would approve the transfer of five federal ministries to federal units in the first phase of the implementation of the amendment. The all-party Parliamentary Committee for Constitutional Reforms (PCCR) had met last weekend to finalise the transfer of these ministries, which include the ministries for local government and rural development, youth affairs, zakat and ushr, population welfare and special affairs.
Such a massive devolution of power and resources to the provinces is happening for the first time in Pakistan’s history. The move, experts believe, would go a long way in allaying mistrust in smaller federating units against Punjab, the largest of four provinces that is often accused of eating up much of the country’s resources because it is the most populous and resources are divided on the basis of population. The idea of the transfer of powers came as a follow up on a promise by the architects of Pakistan’s original 1973 Constitution.
A top official told The Express Tribune that the process of devolution would begin immediately after the cabinet’s approval. “I think it won’t take much time once the cabinet gives the go-ahead. All we would need then is an official notification to make it happen instantly,” said Cabinet Division Secretary Abdul Rauf Chaudhry.
Chaudhry has been participating in the meetings of the implementation commission that worked on how to go about the transfer of ministries.
“By the first week of December, the ministries will be handed over to the provinces,” said Raza Rabbani, chairperson of the Implementation Commission while talking to The Express Tribune.
The 18th amendment has set June 30, 2011, as the deadline for transferring the agreed subjects to the provinces through an implementation commission.
Before the cabinet meeting, the implementation commission would hold a separate session with all four chief ministers to share the devolution plan with them. But they might not be attending the cabinet meeting, Chaudhry said.
Employees’ future in balance
Presently, the centre has 48 ministries other than the divisions and attached departments that are handled by federal and state ministers and the prime minister’s advisers. However, the transfer of ministries to provinces may not entirely lessen the fiscal burden of the federal government as the provinces have refused to accommodate approximately 1,000 employees of these ministries.
He said that the 18th amendment was passed after the seventh National Finance Commission (NFC) Award therefore the issue of transferring federal employees was not discussed with the provincial governments. In the seventh NFC award, the federal government granted greater financial autonomy to the federating units.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 1st, 2010.
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