Can provinces handle the 18th amendment? | Pakistan Today

Can provinces handle the 18th amendment?

The provinces have been given more powers and authority under the 18th Constitutional Amendment and now the provinces will have to prove their capabilities in handling matters. The provinces can get more powers from the Centre by handling the powers given under the 18th amendment properly; but if the provinces fail to prove their aptitude, the Centre may again grab their powers.
“Ownership and management of natural and energy resources have been a contentious issue in many federal systems and Pakistan is no exception, as ownership and control of natural resources have always been a major source of tension between the federal and provincial governments,” observed the speakers at a meeting of advisory groups arranged by Centre for Civic Education and Forum of Federations on Thursday.
Dr Kaiser Bengali, Taj Haider, Zafarullah Khan, Prof Dr Hafeezur Rehman, Naseer Memon, Dr Muhammad Ali Shaikh and Abrar Qazi spoke on the occasion. The meeting was arranged on the topic of ‘Ownership and Management of Natural Resources in Federal System.’ The speakers were of the view that provinces do not know how much gas they were producing and how profitable is hydropower but the National Economic Council (NEC) is the best forum to resolve these issues.
Gas is being supplied to urea-manufacturing plants on subsidised rates and a huge quantity of gas is being wasted in Punjab. They claimed that load shedding in Karachi can be eliminated through the use of furnace oil to produce electricity. According to the Sui Southern Gas Company, 40 percent gas leakages are reported in the areas under Defence Housing Authority in Karachi. The present year’s agriculture exports have touched Rs 20 billion while industrial exports have also increased.
Another flood season is in the offing, as while other countries keep their dams empty during flood seasons, two large dams of Pakistan are already above their storage levels. After the passage of the 18th Constitutional Amendment, Pakistan has become a more federal country than its neighbour, India, and now the ball is in the court of provinces, opined the speakers.
They also claimed that the Sindh Planning and Development Department is under pressure from influential people, who only submit their projects and do not want to discuss the project’s feasibility. “Schools are being constructed on the directions of MPAs, who do not even care to ascertain if there is a need of school in the area,” they added. There is a need to run educational and other institutions with the support of civil society and public-private partnerships and as the 18th amendment has now transferred powers and authority to provinces, they can get more powers from the Centre if they deal with it positively.
Conflicts contributed in an important way in shaping the Pakistani federalism at the time the 1973 Constitution was drafted. The fathers of the constitution agreed over demands by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (then NWFP) and Balochistan on transferring excise duty and royalty on natural gas, as well as net hydro-electricity profits to the provinces, where gas fields or power plants were located. Unfortunately, due to long spells of military dictatorships, the provinces could not benefit from these rights and as a result Sindh and Balochistan had not been happy over the payment of meagre royalties while Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was struggling to recover the arrears of profits on hydropower.
The smaller provinces also have serious concerns over employment pattern in oil and gas companies. Another flashpoint in the context of Pakistani federalism is water management. For a largely arid and agrarian country, water management is a vital priority as the country is moving from water-stressed situation to water-scarcity. Pakistan’s failure to devise an effective strategy for political, economic and technological management of water has led to reduction in water availability per person from 5,000 cubic metres in 1947 to 1,100 cubic metres in 2006.
Despite the Water Apportionment Accord of 1991 and presence of federal body Indus River System Authority (IRSA) for the purpose, provinces of Sindh and Punjab have serious conflicts over water distribution, while Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan do not have the capacity to fully utilise their sanctioned water share. The energy-deficit country is also not able to fully utilise its hydropower potential for cheaper electricity generation.
The speakers, however, added that recent changes in the constitution have attempted to redress many of these issues. Now the ownership of oil and gas is vested jointly and equally in federal and the relevant provincial governments. The provinces can now arrange domestic and international loans and provide guarantees and can also establish power generation units without permission or interference from the federal government.
The speakers discussed the issues of water governance and control of natural resources, sharing mechanisms and conflict resolution structures. A series of meetings of Centre for Civic Education and Forum of Federations’ provincial advisory groups on federalism are planned in all four provinces of the country in July and August and will be followed by a national conference in September.



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