KARACHI: Barrister Murtaza Wahab, the spokesperson of the Sindh government, on Thursday reacted to the federal government’s cut in Sindh’s financial share, calling it unconstitutional.
He said that the claims of the federal government were one thing and the work was another. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government is only acting on claims, he added.
The provincial government spokesperson said that under the National Finance Commission (NFC) Award NFC, financial resources are distributed to the provinces every month.
“PTI claims that they had improved the economy. The federal government was claiming to meet revenue targets in July. They said that it received more revenue than the target in July and if this claim of the federal government was true, then why was the financial share of Sindh reduced by Rs63 billion despite the revenue?” he asked. He further said that Sindh had received less than Rs28 billion from the federation in the month of July alone.
The Sindh government spokesperson asked how the expenses would be met if the financial share of the provincial government was cut every month. “How will the provincial government achieve its development goals?” he asked.
He said that the federal government needed to do house in order and if the federal government had improved the economy, then the effects of this claim should also be seen. “The federal government is incompetent or has no intention of working. We leave the decision to the people,” he concluded.
Earlier, Prime Minister Imran Khan had written to Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah guaranteeing that the federal government would go into the National Finance Commission (NFC) meeting with an open mind and with the spirit of mutual respect.
PM Imran had replied to CM Murad’s letter dated July 23 stating that NFC is the only body to carefully engage “as to how the costs/expense incurred or to be incurred in the discharge of such new obligations and national projects based in the provinces are to be shared between the federation and the provinces.”
“This necessarily entails an adjustment in the distribution of taxes between the federation and the provinces that is to be made under Article 160,” the PM had written.
NFC’s core duty is to allocate financial resources between the federal and provincial governments, and the distribution of taxes collected by the federal government under the federal divisible pool.
Article 160 of the constitution states that the president constitutes the NFC after every five years, for a period of five years. After a consensus is reached regarding the formula to distribute the finances, it is implemented for the next five years.
The 10th NFC was formed by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government on May 12 to announce the new award.
The PM had mentioned in his letter that Articles 78-83 and Articles 118-123 have no relevance to the sharing of taxes as the tax share stood determined in term of Article 160 of the Constitution.
“It is also stated that the purpose of 10th NFC is to evolve and agree upon revised criteria keeping in view of the development since the last award, which would form the basis of equitable distribution of taxes between the federation and the provinces. We shall have ample opportunity to deliberate upon all relevant considerations during the meetings of the NFC but let me briefly address clauses No 2 (d) to (f) of the notification which you have described as unconstitutional in your letter,” he had said.
The letter had stated that prior to the abolition of the concurrent list in 4th schedule to the Constitution, the federation as well as the provinces shared a number of subjects. He had said that with its abolition, all such subjects devolved to the provinces.
“However, it emerged that in spite of the devolution it was not possible for many such subjects to be dealt with the provinces alone. This is particularly so when the issue transcended the territorial limits of the respective provinces,” the premier had said.
The letter had highlighted that to deal with such issues, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)-led federal government established the concept of ‘trans-provincial’ matters and instituted a federal law, the Industrial Relations Act 2012, on labor welfare which had otherwise been delegated to the provinces.
The letter had stated that this law was contested on grounds of usurpation of provincial legislative power by the federation in different high courts.
“Ultimately, the Supreme Court decided the case in the Sui Southern Gas Limited in 2018 and the legislative competence and the obligation of federation in such matters was upheld,” it had added.
The PM had also mentioned another SC judgment in which three hospitals situated in Karachi were transferred to federal government. “It is also stated that though health fully devolved in the provinces but there are obligations on federation in view of SC judgment,” he had said.
The letter had further mentioned the SC suo motu case related to coronavirus wherein certain directions were passed to federal government related to the health issue. Otherwise, this is a provincial subject, it had added.
“The federal government does not have an option to ignore or opt-out of the obligations on the ground that the subject stood devolved to the provinces as all these matters directly relate to and affect the fundamental rights of the citizens as well as obligations under Article 151 of the Constitution,” the letter had read.