The federal cabinet has approved devolution of five ministries from the centre to the provinces in the first phase of decentralisation of powers as envisaged in the 18th constitutional amendment.
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani presided over the cabinet meeting on Wednesday and vowed that the devolution process would be implemented in letter and spirit.
Briefing the media, Chairperson of the 18th Amendment Implementation Commission Senator Raza Rabbani described the day as historic as “it marks a big administrative decision towards granting provinces more autonomy.”
The five ministries that have been transferred are: special initiatives, Zakat and Ushr, population welfare, youth affairs, and local government and rural development.
The provinces have also inherited office buildings, equipment, development funds and projects for fiscal year 2010-11.
Rabbani said all issues pertaining to international matters of these ministries would be transferred to the Economic Affairs Division (EAD) and some planning-related matters to the Planning and Development Division. However, he clarified that the overall planning of ministries that are being transferred or will be transferred in February 2011 would be the responsibility of provincial governments.
Responding to a question about the employees working in the ministries, he said no one would be retrenched, laid off or offered a golden handshake. Instead, he added, legislation would be made in coordination with the provinces to protect their services.
The Establishment Division secretary stated that there are 3,769 federal government employees in the ministries, of whom 2,671 are permanent and 951 are working on a contract basis. “Some of them are already working in attached departments of these ministries in the provinces. The remaining will be added to the surplus pool until their services are handed over to other divisions,” he said.
Rabbani said all of them would be adjusted. “The cabinet has also approved the rules of business for devolution of these ministries and a notification will be issued within a day or two,” he said.
Rabbani said that before the cabinet meeting, Gilani had chaired a meeting of the implementation commission that was attended by provincial chief ministers. The participants unanimously approved the proposal, which was later endorsed.
Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, Housing Minister Rahmatullah Kakar, Minister for Overseas Pakistanis Farooq Sattar and Senator Ishaq Dar were also present during the briefing.
Kaira said the cabinet had also ratified the Afghan Transit Trade Agreement (ATTA). However, he did not respond to questions about the Reformed General Sales Tax (RGST) and the ‘shocking’ revelations of WikiLeaks and told the media to restrict reporting the cabinet’s decision.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 2nd, 2010.