Major political parties have called for more political, fiscal and administrative autonomy to the provinces.
Representatives from PPP, PML-N, PTI, MQM, ANP, PKMAP, NP, JI and PMLQ expressed their views in a workshop organised by the Forum of Federations, an international organization, dedicated to democratic devolution. Under discussion was the blockage that continues to thwart the implementation of those articles contained in the 18th constitutional amendment.
A Parliamentarian said, “It is time for leaders to stand up and walk the walk – not just talk the talk,” describing the need to push forward with reforms that are crucial to ensuring the democracy.
The participants included, Senator Taj Haider and Bushra Gorar who offered their considerable knowledge and experiences to the discussion. Experts from Pakistan, Canada, South Asia and Brazil presented their experiences in intergovernmental relations and devolution of power and the importance of standing up intergovernmental institutions, such as the CCI.
The debate touched on many issues such as the importance of women in politics and handing over meaningful power to the provinces in areas such as taxation. On the issue of taxation, consciousness and culture matter – requiring a change in the political and public perception of the value of taxes. The devolution of taxation powers to the provinces was seen as important way to open up paths to less dependency on hand outs and better service delivery.
The centralised mindset of government and politics was identified as a major challenge in Pakistan federalism; and in many ways explains the failure to set an agenda and meetings for peak governmental institutions, such as the CCI.
“The dynamics of federalism are wholly reliant on the will of its practitioners for its effectiveness,” stated an expert. Thus whilst the CCI has been handed constitutional powers to formulate, regulate and monitor policies and institutions it lacks the support to do so. Participants also emphasised for the enhancement of the role of Senate.
Workshop participants debated methods for opening channels for women in politics, both in terms of quotas for parliamentary seats and pushing for more political party tickets. Both instruments were seen as essential to promote the participation of women, fundamental to the devolution process.
The implementation of Article 148 of the Constitution across the whole of Pakistan and holding local body elections was a matter of great debate and indeed seen as a failure thus far.