Thursday November 30, 2023

Dar calls for review of resources given to provinces under NFC

"Manifesto committee not given mandate to look into 18th Amendment," PML-N senator says in Senate

By Web Desk
November 21, 2023
Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Senator Ishaq Dar addressing a press conference when he was the finance minister in this undated picture. — AFP/File
Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Senator Ishaq Dar addressing a press conference when he was the finance minister in this undated picture. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Amid rumours of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) changing the 18th amendment, Senator Ishaq Dar on Tuesday voiced concern regarding the National Finance Commission (NFC) and called for the need to work on resources distributed to the provinces under the award.

Speaking in the upper house of parliament, the leader of the House in the Senate said that, as per the Constitution, the NFC should be revised every five years.

The senator, who is a member of the PML-N and a former finance minister, commented on a report asserting that his party plans to amend the 18th amendment.

“In the story, it was said that the PML-N manifesto committee was told to look at the 18th Amendment again. The manifesto committee has not been given any such mandate. There is no problem related to the 18th Amendment,” Senator Dar said.

He added that his party’s manifesto committee chairman has also stated that the manifesto has not been made as of yet.

“Amending the Constitution is not an ordinary matter. There is nothing related to the 18th Amendment in the manifesto committee,” said the PML-N lawmaker. He added that his party was involved in the formulation of the 18th Amendment.

“Through the NFC, the share of the federation was transferred to the provinces and the provinces' share to the federation,” said Senator Dar, adding that all those subjects that were marked for devolution under the concurrent list went to the provinces.

“What is being done on the subjects devolved to the provinces? In the federation we still keep money for health when it should be done by the provinces,” said Senator Dar.

What is PML-N's plan for 18th Amendment?

Senator Ishaq Dar is the third senior PML-N leader to talk about the 18th Amendment after a news report claimed that the party was thinking of making changes to the constitutional amendment if it is voted back to power.

A day earlier, PML-N's manifesto committee chief Senator Irfan Siddiqui and the party's Information Secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb both rejected the assertions made in the report.

The news report, published in an English daily, had claimed that the PML-N’s manifesto committee has received several suggestions including the reversal of the 18th Amendment to change the distribution mechanism of finances among provinces.

The PML-N had formed its manifesto committee comprising over 33 members on November 7 with Senator Siddiqui as its chairman.

The committee was formed days after Nawaz Sharif returned to Pakistan as the party geared up its political activities ahead of the Feb 8 polls.

“There’s a very strong feeling, rather a conviction, among the party’s top leadership that the current arrangements of financial resources distribution among the provinces [under the 18th Amendment to the Constitution] has created unsustainable financial problems,” a PML-N source had told the publication on the condition of anonymity.

“So far, it’s believed that the party would not go for an outright reversal of the 18th Amendment, but it would address its key features and reshape the distribution mechanism of financial resources among the provinces. You would hopefully see it as part of the PML-N manifesto,” the source had explained.

Two party leaders, who had spoken to the publication anonymously, had also confirmed the development.

“In the name of provincial autonomy, we have seen that provinces are absolved after receiving their share under the NFC award, while payment of interest and principal instalments of loans, provision of money under the defence budget, matters of deficit-hit national institutions, payment of current account deficit and many other financial affairs become centre’s sole responsibility,” another PML-N leader had said.

The amendment in question has been talked about extensively and there have been calls to make changes in it. It was passed during the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led government in 2010 and the party has always vowed to resist any moves that would be made to change it.

The amendment devolved powers to provinces on issues such as health, women's development, social welfare and local government.

The amendment also defined that provinces’ would receive 57.5% of the share of federal resources while the rest of the amount was to be used by the centre for debt servicing, development programmes, defence and other areas.