While the issue of the Panama Papers continues to rage, the federal government is being accused of violating the rights of smaller provinces. The chief ministers of Sindh and KP have claimed in a joint press conference that their provinces are being denied their full share in the National Finance Commission (NFC) award. Further, the federal government has deprived them of their share in electricity and does not consult the provinces when preparing development projects. According to Pervez Khattak the PML-N government at the center was ‘stealing’ 500MW electricity of his province and 1,000MW of Sindh.
The constitution provides a forum in the shape of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) to resolve inter-provincial disputes as well as those between provinces and the center. The record of the PML-N government vis-a -vis fulfilling its constitutional responsibilities is, however, dismal. Under sub-clause 3 of Article 153, the CCI is required to meet at least once in three months. The requirement was not met in any single year of the government’s present tenure.
The informal style of decision making which characterises Nawaz Sharif is weakening the system. The prime minister and key cabinet members miss important National Assembly sittings. The ruling party MNAs follow suit, causing frequent quorum breaks. Opposition leaders find addressing a practically empty house a futile exercise. A trend is therefore taking shape to take the differences to the streets instead of seeking their resolution in Parliament. The PTI was the first to leave Parliament and take recourse to sit-ins. The Sindh chief minister has threatened now to exercise the constitutional right to protest if the problems faced by his province continue to be ignored. To preserve and strengthen the system the government needs to hold the CCl meetings regularly and the prime minister has to be present in most of the NA sittings. Unless this happens the tendency for agitation cannot be curbed. If the PML-N administration fails to take remedial measures, some of the nationalist parties which are presently reluctant to join any agitation might revise their position.