ISLAMABAD: Terming the government’s decision to place regulatory authorities under the control of the line ministries a “sheer violation” of the Constitution, members of the Senate Functional Committee on Devolution on Wednesday called for placing them under the Council of Common Interests (CCI).
According to a handout issued by the Senate Secretariat after a meeting of the committee headed by Mir Kabeer Ahmed Shahi, the members also recommended that the regulatory authorities be allowed to function as autonomous bodies.
In a major policy decision, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Dec 19 transferred the administrative control of five key regulatory bodies to the respective ministries, apparently compromising their relative independence under the cabinet division.
According to the notification issued by the cabinet division, the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra), Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra), Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), Frequency Allocation Board (FAB) and the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) were placed under the respective ministries.
Senator Sassui Palijo of the PPP said the decision to place the regulatory authorities under the jurisdiction of the ministries was “against the spirit of the Constitution” and the government should review it. She regretted that even parliament was kept in the dark while taking the decision on the important issue.
Senator Palijo alleged that deliberate attempts were being made to undermine the true spirit of the 18th Constitution Amendment.
Senator Usman Kakar of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party alleged that the federal government was not serious in implementing the devolution process in letter and spirit. He reiterated his resolve to make every effort for true implementation of the devolution plan.
He suggested that the subject of devolution be made a part of the CCI’s agenda on a permanent basis to ensure its proper implementation.
Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq of the ruling PML-N defended the government’s decision, saying it would not affect the independent working of the bodies. She also dispelled a perception that the government was not sincere about implementing the devolution plan.
The members also expressed serious concerns over the delay in setting up of a permanent secretariat of the CCI.
The committee’s chairman emphasised that the secretariat should be set up as early as possible. He said that creation of the permanent secretariat of the CCI would enable the forum to effectively play its constitutional role and there was a dire need to act seriously in this regard.
Senator Ilyas Bilour of the Awami National Party also said that the “ruling junta” was trying to roll back the 18th Amendment. He said the people had rendered sacrifices to achieve autonomy and vowed to stop every move aimed at rolling back the amendment.
Senators Taj Haider, Saif Ali Khan, Tahir Mashhadi, Nisar Muhammad Khan and Kamil Ali Agha also spoke on the issue.
The heads of Nepra, Ogra, PTA and PPRA were also present in the meeting.