“18th Amendment empowers provinces to establish their Planning commission”

ISLAMABAD, 03 DEC (DNA) -The struggle for Pakistan initially began with struggle for regional autonomy and rights within an independent but united India. Under this scheme a tri-zone federation was conceived with India, Pakistan and Bangladesh as its constituents.

However, with the continuous contest between Congress and Muslim League this struggle first led into the partition of India in 1947 and the same quest for autonomy then led to partition of Pakistan in 1971.

This was stated by renowned economist and head of the Chief Minister’s Policy Reforms Unit, Balochistan Dr Kaiser Bengali at a distinguished lecture on “Political Economy of Fiscal Federalism” organized by Pakistan Study Group on Federalism.

The lecture was hosted at National Institute for Historical and Cultural Research at Quid-e-Azam University and attended by a large number of faculty members, experts and students.

Discussing the political economy of formative phase of Pakistan, Dr. Bengali traced the origins of centralist mindset in the genealogy of ruling elite which according to him constituted 8% of population who had mostly migrated from India and has more incentives in a centralized state instead of a federal state.

“The muhajir ruling elite of initial years of Pakistan has no interest in federalism, democracy and constitution, therefore, the efforts for elections and constitution making remained a least priority of decision makers in embryonic Pakistan”, Dr. Bengal remarked.

There was a transition of power from Muhajir elite to Punjabi elite in later years and both have a tendency for concentration rather than redistribution of power to different regional actors.

Federalism was denied continuously by Mohajir- Punjabi-military nexus which resulted in the politics of dissidence led by Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Dr. Bengali explained.

“In contemporary developments, the 7th NFC Award and the 18th Constitutional Amendment are two key reforms introduced through political consensus which has dismantled, to a greater extent, the centralized state structure of Pakistan.” Dr. Bengali maintained.

However, this is still a constitutional framework which is in the process of implementation. The struggle to protect the 18th Amendment and reverse the same is on even today between two mindsets and two schools of thoughts.

The centrists’ tendencies in politics, bureaucracy and academia are creating arguments for recentralization which would only damage the evolving federalism in Pakistan, Bengali warned.

Responding to a question by Dr. Aliya H Khan, Dean of Social Sciences, Dr. Bengali floated an idea of establishing provincial planning commissions to effectively use the planning, policy, fiscal and legislative spaces provided by the 7th NFC and the 18th Amendment.

Dr. Bengali also endorsed the demand for new provinces and he opined that the establishment of provincial senates can also address intra-province disparities and grievances.

Discussing the 8th NFC Award next year, Dr. Bengali apprehended that federal government would try to encroach upon the fiscal space of provinces where an inter-provincial solidarity would be required to protect the fiscal autonomy provided by the previous NFC Award.

After a lively and interactive conversation Dr. Alia H Khan presented QAU shield to Dr Bengali and encouraged government functionaries of the federal and provincial governments to create an interface between research and policy in the wake of 18th Amendment. DNA 

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