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Prospective NFC reconstitution: Balochistan member’s name not being disclosed to avoid controversy once again

July 21, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Both the federal and Balochistan governments are disinclined to disclose the name of the new selected Balochistan member in the National Finance Commission to shun any controversy once...

ISLAMABAD: Both the federal and Balochistan governments are disinclined to disclose the name of the new selected Balochistan member in the National Finance Commission (NFC) to shun any controversy once again before his/her official notification.

“The new nomination from Balochistan has been received from the provincial government by the federal government to fill the vacancy in the 10th NFC,” the Finance Ministry spokesman told The News to a question. He refused to divulge the name. He said Attorney General of Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan has given to the government a notification for issuance by it reconstituting the NFC. It will be sent to Prime Minister Imran Khan for approval and its subsequent formal notification by President Dr Arif Alvi, he said.

When contacted, Balochistan government spokesman Liaquat Shahwani expressed ignorance about the new non-statutory nominee from his province. He promised to get back but didn’t. Balochistan member Javed Jabbar resigned on May 31, rendering the constitutional body incomplete. The NFC cannot meet until the new nomination from Balochistan will be notified.

In a letter to President Alvi, Javed Jabbar stated that any Pakistani citizen who, in the opinion of the nominating and approving authority, is suitably qualified, irrespective of province of residence, is eligible as per the Constitution and law, to represent any of the four federating units and to serve on the NFC, or any other federal or provincial body.

“Due to my long association with the great people and province of Balochistan for the past 45 years in different public service capacities, including a six-year tenure in the Senate, and three times as a member of federal cabinet, and in the voluntary field in the development sector, I had accepted this unsought, unexpected honour - only in order to make a humble, potentially positive contribution. My initial view was that even though I am not a resident of the province, one could use experience in aspects of political economy and familiarity with the core problems of the province to advocate the cause of Balochistan. Several residents of Balochistan conveyed their valued felicitations and support for my nomination,” he said.

However, Javed Jabbar said that in the past two weeks, some political opposition has been voiced within Balochistan to his nomination. “Petitions have been filed in the Balochistan High Court (BHC) which will render its just verdict soon, as per the Constitution and law. “But consensus is the cornerstone of NFC's work and its declared awards. Ideally, there should also be a reasonably broad political consensus within Balochistan about nominations to the NFC. If such broad consensus does not exist, then the eventual outcome, however sincerely and competently pursued, and even regardless of the benefits accruing to Balochistan from the announced NFC award, are likely to be rejected by some -- with the complaint that more should have been secured,” he said.

On June 24, the BHC declared the NFC notification null and void and remarked that the appointment of NFC members is not in accordance with the Constitution. It said the Balochistan governor should appoint a new member of the NFC from Balochistan on the recommendation of the provincial government. It also annulled the appointments of Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and federal finance secretary as members of the NFC.

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) was assured by the government to revisit the NFC composition on June 30, which hinted at replacing Hafeez Shaikh. The attorney general told the IHC that Javed Jabbar has resigned and the BHC has issued an order against Dr Hafeez Shaikh’s nomination. He assured that he would advise the government to revisit the NFC composition to address different grievances.

According to the May 12 presidential notification, the finance secretary was designated in the NFC as “official expert”. It authorised the finance adviser to chair the NFC meetings in the absence of the finance minister, the premier in this case.

The NFC Terms of Reference (TOR) contained at least five new subjects and areas that never figured in any of the previous NFCs. The overall federal allocation from amongst the available resources was sought to be increased and the shares of the provinces to be decreased to meet expenditures on these critical areas. Or the provinces, while maintaining their present shares, will be asked by the NFC to share the additional expenditures and financial responsibilities that the Federation is bearing.

The new areas and subjects were expenditures made on the Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan governments, the newly merged districts of erstwhile tribal areas into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and security and natural disasters/calamities; and repayment of public debt.

Two other areas were rationalisation of subsidies given by the federal and provincial governments in their budgets and agreeing on a mechanism to finance them, and exploring ways to reduce losses of state-owned enterprises and agreeing on a mechanism for sharing these losses between the federal and provincial governments


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