By : Dr. Syed Jaffar Ahmed.
The Council of Common Interests (CCI) is an important institution created by the 1973 constitution of Pakistan. The constitution had adopted federalism as the form of government, and incorporated into its scheme a number of instruments and devices ensuring the operationalization of federal principles. In order to harmonize the inter-governmental relations, the constitution had established the CCI which was responsible for making decisions on the subjects put in the Part II of the Federal Legislative List, encompassing matters with which both the federal as well as provincial governments were concerned. In the overall federal scheme of the constitution, the CCI had an important role, yet its role could be undermined by other centralizing aspects of the constitution. Not only this, in the years following adoption of constitution, two military regimes (1977-1988 and 1999-2008) severely damaged whatever federal edifice was erected by the constitution. An important aspect of this disregard of federalism, was the almost diminished role of the CCI during 19 years of military rule. In these years, only one meeting of the CCI was held.
Ever since the creation of the constitution, a further devolution in its federal scheme had been a persistent demand of political parties. The abolition of the Concurrent Legislative List was conceived as a useful means to increase the area of competence, both legislative and executive, of the provinces. It was also believed that the provinces should be provided means for resource mobilization and fairer allocation of resources through better National Finance Commission Awards.
Following the 2008 elections, the new government embarked upon the reformation of the constitution with the support and coordination of all the parties having representation in the parliament. Consequently the 18th Constitutional Amendment was created by a constitutional committee, comprising of representatives of political parties; its draft was approved by the parliament in April 2010.
The 18th Amendment made drastic changes in the constitution expanding the subject of fundamental rights, restoring the parliamentary form of government, and transforming the almost organic federalism of the constitution into cooperative federalism in Pakistan. The role ascribed to the CCI in the Amendment, made it a pivotal instrument of federalism. The composition of the CCI was improved; its functions were extended to cover the formulation, regulation and supervision of policies and decisions related to the subjects in Part II of the Federal Legislative List. The CCI now has to have its own secretariat, and it has to be constituted within 30 days of the taking of the oath of the prime minister. The Amendment has also laid it down that the CCI would be answerable to the parliament to whose two houses it would present its report annually. So far three reports have been presented to the parliament. These deal with the working of the CCI in 2010-2011, 2011-2012, and 2012-2013. In the following, the presentation of the reports will be analyzed. The analysis is not about the working of the CCI as such but it is about the preparation, scope and presentation of the reports. In the end, a few suggestions will be offered for the improvement of the reports in the future.
Importance of Documentation in Political Systems
All political systems in modern states have four important and interrelated components—the constitution, institutions, political actors, and the monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. The constitution provides guidelines and structural details of the system. The institutions are built in consonance with the constitutional imperatives and to implement its provisions. The political system is operated through the agency of the political parties who on one hand transmit the needs and demands of the society to the state institutions, and on the other, contribute to the making of policies in response to social needs. The interplay of the political actors, and the manner in which they make use of the constitution and the institutions, determine the political dynamics of the system. A viable and functional political system depends upon, among other things, a continuous process of evaluation of what the institutions and the political actors have been doing. For this assessment and evaluation, the culture of documentation is imperative.
The Culture of Documentation in Pakistan: A General View
Pakistan had inherited a culture of producing documents from the British. During the colonial period, due importance was given to the recording of minutes, preserving of the original papers, and producing of periodicals on almost all the things that the colonial regime was concerned with. This documentation provided firm grounds to the colonial administration to devise new policies on the basis of the information that it had about performance in previous years.
In the first decade after independence, successive governments in Pakistan did manage to continue this past practice due to severe resource constraints, both human and financial. With the passage of time, however, instead of improving the overall quality of reports of government departments as well as their regularity, a trend of deterioration set in. Today although we do not have quality reports of all ministries and departments, some of the reports are regular and their quality can also be regarded as acceptable. Here one can cite the examples of State Bank’s Annual Reports, Economic Surveys of Pakistan, and the Debates of the federal and provincial legislatures, even though the latter are often not produced in time.
Keeping in view the past record of documents production one can identify certain major and general problems faced by readers of these reports.
The first problem, from the point of view of the citizen, is that certain departments do not produce reports at all. This is equally true for the federal as well as provincial bodies. In the absence of these reports, neither the working of these departments can be put to discussion nor do the departments themselves get the opportunity to benefit from the feedback.
The second problem is the delays with which reports are produced. Except for a few departments the rest do not demonstrate punctuality in producing their reports. The poor state of dissemination is also an important issue. In a number of cases reports are produced but are not shared with libraries, research centers, the press and common citizens . The fourth issue relates to the overall state of the society at large and the academia and intelligentsia in particular. There is no, or little discussion on the available documents. It is only the serious newspapers whose columnists make the official documents a theme of discussion and critical evaluation. Certain academic bodies and civil society organizations also comment on these reports in their own work and conferences, and discuss their quality. The final problem is regarding the reporting agencies, whose staff does not always have sufficient training in report writing. This makes their reports professionally weak and inadequate.
Reports of the CCI
The CCI is supposed to present its annual reports to both houses of the parliament. However, after the passing of 18th Amendment in April 2010, the first report did not come out in time. On 18 January 2012 Senator Professor Khurshid Ahmed raised the issue in the Senate in the form of a privileged motion. He asked why despite the passage of one year the report on CCI (and also those of National Economic Council, Principles of Policy, and National Finance Commission) was not tabled before the house. It was in response to this move that the reports started coming in. The CCI report for 2010-11 was presented in March 2012. Similarly the report for 2011-12 was tabled in March 2013. Unfortunately, no discussion took place on these reports.
The reports, however, provided useful information and details about the themes and subjects that came up for discussion in the meetings of the CCI. The reports are based on a uniform pattern. In each report, after an Introduction, the composition of the CCI (with and the names of individuals attending a particular session, is given. It is followed by the prime minister’s address. After this, cases are discussed separately. Following this, the implementation status is also mentioned. It is cited whether a particular decision has been implemented or is under process. As by the time of the printing of the report certain decisions are implemented while others are being implemented, their status at the time of the printing of the report is documented. The reports also given the list of participants who fall in three categories. 1) the constitutional members; 2) the invitees in a particular meeting; and, 3) the members of the CCI secretariat.
A very useful part of the reports provides an analysis of submission of cases in the meeting in one year. For example the report of 2011-12 gives the details of the two meetings held in that year. Accordingly, in that year 13 proposals or subjects were presented by the federal government. Of these ten were approved or three were rejected or deferred. From among the provinces only one submission was made by the Punjab which was approved. Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan did not present any submission.
In 2012-13, three meetings of the CCI were held. In this year, the federal government brought 15 submissions of which 12 were approved, while three were not accepted. Punjab, Sindh and KPK did bring one submission each, which were all accepted. Balochistan, however, again did not bring any submission for discussion and evaluation.
The reports’ overall coverage of themes is quite substantial and gives a clear picture of what has been done in the Council by the federal and provincial governments. Here all those themes which were discussed and on whom a decision were taken in the meetings of CCI from this 12th meeting held on 18 July 2010 are listed. This was first meeting of the CCI after the adoption of the 18th Amendment.
1. 12th Meeting: 18 July 2010
i. Rules of Procedures of Council of Common Interests, 2010
ii. Implementation of the Eighteenth Amendment
iii. NEPRA’s Annual Report, 2008-09 and State of Industry Report, 2009
iv. Intellectual Property Organization of Pakistan (IPO-Pakistan)’s issues
v. National consensus for construction of DiamerBasha Dam Project
vi. Thar Coal Project
vii. Working of Railways
viii. Population Census
2. 13th Meeting: 6 September 2010
i. Flood crisis and strategies, with a focus on relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction plans.
3. 14th Meeting: 8 November 2010
i. Damage and Needs Assessment (DNA) and External Assistance for Flood
ii. Implementation Mechanism and post-flood reconstruction
iii. 6th Population and Housing Census
iv. Special Economic Zones Bill, 2010
v. Regulation of generation, transmission and distribution of electric power (Amendment) Bill, 2010.
vi. Sugar availability
4. 15th Meeting: 1 February 2011
i. Financing for the organizations and projects transferred to the Provinces.
ii. Tight Gas (Exploration and Production) Policy, 2010
iii. Subsidy on agricultural tube wells
iv. Management and outsourcing of power sector entities through Public Private Partnership (PPP) Mode
5. 16th Meeting: 28 April 2011
i. Report on implementation of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) decisions
ii. NEPRA’s Annual Report 2009-10 and the State of Industry Report 2010
iii. Regulation of generation, transmission and distribution of Electric Power (Amendment) Bill, 2010.
iv. Approval for negotiation and signing of Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation between Korean Rail Road Cooperation (Korail), Republic of Korea and Pakistan Railways, Ministry of Railways, Government of Pakistan.
v. Privatization of Power Entities
vi. Dispute arising from the interpretation of Article 157 of the Constitution by the Federation and appropriate amendment in the policy for power generation projects (2002) so as bring it in line with the letter and spirit of the said Article.
vii. Funding for devolved organizations, institutions and departments and Projects of defunct ministries and divisions beyond 30th June 2011.
viii. Devolution of National Education Foundation (NEF) and National Commission for Human Development (NCHD)
ix. Private Power and Infrastructure Board (PPIB) Bill, 2010
6. 17th Meeting: 1 June 2011
i. Harmonization of Agriculture Income Tax Policy in the provinces
ii. Revenues of Regulatory Authorities of Federal Government
iii. Approval of Draft Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan Bill, 2011
iv. Devolution of National Education Foundation (NEF) and National Commission for Human Development (NCHD)
v. Allocation of water for Islamabad and Rawalpindi
vi. Financial Autonomy of Indus River System Authority
vii. Policy Guidelines for power generation through Small Independent Power Projects (SIPP) below 50 MW Capacity
viii. Allocation of water for AJ&K for drinking and irrigation purposes
7. 18th Meeting: 27 August 2011
i. Approval of the Council of Common Interests of Pakistan for Special Economic Zones Bill, 2011
ii. Distribution of Zakat funds to federal areas and provinces and distribution of arrears of un-utilized Zakat funds claimed by the provinces
iii. Co-financing of Citizens’ Damage Compensation Programme-II
iv. Public Debt Management and Supervision Policy
v. Gas Infrastructure Development Levy for laying gas pipelines to import gas through pipelines, LNG and other projects
vi. Privatisation of Power Sector Entities
vii. Sixth Population and Housing Census
8. 19th Meeting: 9 February 2012
i. Annual Report of the Council of the Common Interests (CCI) for the year 2010-11
ii. Report on the Implementation of the Council of the Common Interests (CCI) decisions
iii. Amendment in PPRA Ordinance, 2002 through Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2011
iv. Financial crunch faced by Population Welfare Department, Punjab
v. National Science, Technology & Innovation Policy – 2012
vi. Approval of Petroleum Exploration and Production Policy 2012
vii. Financial Autonomy of the Indus River System Authority
9. 20th Meeting: 8 August 2012
i. Report on the Implementation of the Council of the Common Interests (CCI) decisions
ii. Equitable distribution of Electricity throughout the country
iii. Approval of Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Policy, 2012
iv. Approval of National Mineral Policy, 2012
10. 21st Meeting: 8 November 2012
i. Annual Report of the Council of the Common Interests (CCI) for the year 2011-12
ii. Report on the Implementation of the Council of the Common Interests (CCI) decisions
iii. Setting up the committees of the Council of the Common Interests (CCI)
iv. Working and functioning of the National Electric and Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA)
v. Jurisdiction of the Council of the Common Interests (CCI) vis-a-vis the Intellectual Property Rights Organization of Pakistan (IPO-Pakistan)
vi. Renaming of Ministry of Professional and Technical Training as Ministry of Education and Training
vii. Provincial representation in Federal Entities
viii. Approval of National Mineral Policy – 2012
ix. Equitable distribution of electricity
x. Briefing on the working of Pakistan Railways
11. 22nd Meeting: 23 January 2013
i. Status review of important decisions of the CCI meetings
ii. Regularization of Lady Health Workers etc.
iii. Issue of non-delayed payments by sugar mill owners to sugarcane growers
iv. Briefing on the working of Pakistan Railways
12. 23rd Meeting: 23 July 2013
i. Briefing on the functioning of the Council of the Common Interests
ii. National Energy (Power) Policy, 2013-2018
iii. Inter-provincial transfer and fiscal discipline
13. 24th Meeting: 31 July 2013
i. National Energy (Power) Policy, 2013-2018
ii. Offences and penalties relating to electricity – Amendment in the PPC and Cr PC
iii. Amendment in Petroleum Policy, 2012
iv. Draft Bill for the enactment of the Gas (Theft Control & Recovery) Ordinance, 2013
v. Draft Bill for the enactment of the Gas (Theft Control & Recovery) Ordinance, 2013
Weaknesses of the Reports
Here, it will be useful to discuss some weaknesses of the reports published so far. First, the date of submission is not mentioned in any of the reports. As a result, anyone who would be citing it will find it difficult to ascertain when the report was, put before the houses of parliament. A possible explanation for not mentioning the date of submission could be that a report printed before the session of parliament cannot envisage if the parliament session would definitely be held on the date decided for it. It is also possible that the date of the session is known but due to any un-conceived situation the agenda of the day may change and does not allow the report to be put before a house. A good solution for this can be the printing of some copies of the report to be tabled in the house without the date of presentation printed on them, but once the report is put before the house, the rest of the copies should be printed with the date of submission.
The second weakness is the lack of bibliographical details in the reports. Each report should clearly mention the name of the publishing body, the name of the printing press as well as the date of printing. These details are important for the citation of these reports in future research work.
It is hoped that the Council of Common Interests, apart from playing the proactive role prescribed for it in the constitution, will also produce its reports in time, make them more substantial and informative, and ensuring that published reports meet professional standards.