CCI may restore magistracy system

ISLAMABAD / LAHORE: The Council of Common Interests, which is to meet on Wednesday, is expected to restore the Executive Magistracy System in the country, abolished during military rule of retired General Pervez Musharraf, through an amendment in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898.

5508d5f0a6a37The federal government has been advocating restoration of the magistracy system to control the prices of essential commodities and almost all provincial governments have agreed during consultative meetings to support the proposal.

The meeting, to be presided over by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and attended by all the provincial chief ministers (except Balochistan), has been convened after a gap of about 10 months even though the constitution requires the CCI to meet at least once in 90 days. The CCI also comprises three nominees of the prime minister, usually federal ministers.

A proposal by the ministry of petroleum and natural resources for re-regulation and price fixation of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) by the government will also come up before the CCI. The LPG pricing was deregulated more than a decade ago, but its pricing had become a political issue because of skyrocketing increases by marketing companies and dealers. The petroleum ministry is now introducing Liquefied Petroleum Gas Production and Distribution Policy, 2014, to fix its pricing in the public sector.

The sources said the CCI was also expected to take up allocation of water for Islamabad and Rawalpindi from Indus River. Some provinces, particularly Sindh, had been opposing the allocation of water from Indus River for Rawalpindi and Islamabad out of combined pool and wanted its deduction from Punjab’s share.

The council is expected to consider an inquiry into corruption allegations in the Kacchi canal project and a request of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa seeking monetary compensation for its water being used by Sindh and Punjab out of the water apportionment accord share because of lack of infrastructure in its territory. Sindh and Punjab have refused to pay for the inability of KP and Balochistan to use their share of water.

The meeting will consider purchase of up to 20 per cent of the right shares of the Pakistan Petroleum Limited, Oil and Gas Development Company Limited and Sui Southern Gas Company at their face value under the Aghaz-i-Haqooq-i-Balochistan.

The CCI will ponder over permanent absorption of federal employees transferred to provincial governments in the wake of 18th Amendment, many of whom have been unable to get their salaries and promotions over the years.

The council will be presented the Public Debt Management and Supervision Policy under which the federal government keeps a watch on contracting of foreign debt by the provinces, besides taking up the Pakistan Energy Efficiency & Energy Conserv­ation Bill, 2014, and Nepra’s annual report for 2012-13.

The CCI will consider the Pakistan Oil (Refining, Blending, Transportation, Storage and Marketing) Rules for action against violators of mandatory stocks by the refineries and oil marketing companies, particularly in the wake of recent petrol shortage in the country.

The ministry of petroleum and natural resources has brought up for CCI’s consideration the Shale Gas Interim Framework for the pilot projects to offer lucrative incentives for first three shale gas discoveries, requiring comparatively higher investments.

The meeting will also consider a bill for establishment of the Pakistan Halal Authority and a summary for amendment in the petroleum policy 2009 and 2012 and model petroleum concession agreement.

CENSUS: The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics has recommended to the CCI that all provincial share of resources be allocated on the basis of 1998 census for the next 30 years.

The PBS has floated the proposal on the eve of the CCI meeting to freeze the population ratio of 1998 census to determine share of the provinces of seats of the National Assembly and distribution of shares among provinces under the new National Finance Commission award.

Although it is mandatory to conduct the census every decade, it has not been held for almost 17 years.

A summary submitted to the CCI secretariat shows that the PBS has proposed that the population census may be conducted in one go – the first three days for house listing operation and the following 15 days for main count.

The PBS said that the census may be held with 100 per cent support of armed forces, at man-to-man level as was done in 1998. “No other nationwide activity should be undertaken at least six months before and after the census operation.”

It proposed that the house listing carried out in April-May 2011 may be discarded. Rs13.330 billion may be allocated for conducting the census, the summary said.

According to officials of the ministry of finance and Nadra, the PBS proposals might be opposed by the provinces, especially Sindh and Balochistan.

An official in the finance ministry told Media that the PBS has ruled out the expansion or growth in three small provinces by suggesting freezing of resource distribution mechanism. “The proposal submitted by the PBS is the outcome of cut and paste policy of external models without considering the local context,” he said.

Official sources said that the CCI would discuss a draft policy aimed at giving incentives to motivate the private sector to generate electricity.

The meeting will discuss an amendment to the Indus River System Authority Act, 1992, seeking powers for Irsa to devise a mechanism for giving compensation to any province having a complaint that some other federating unit has stolen its water.

The amendment has been suggested by Balochistan, which accuses Sindh of stealing its water.

At present, the act authorises the authority to resolve only water disputes among the provinces.

The sources said that all other provinces were against the proposal because, according to them, the amendment would open a Pandora’s Box.

The issue of the provincial higher education commissions raised by Sindh is also on the agenda.

The sources said that like Punjab, Sindh had enacted a law to establish its own higher education commission under the 18th Amendment. But the law undermined the federal higher education commission and even repealed the law governing the federal body.

They said that this was unconstitutional and was expected to be opposed by the federal and all other provincial governments.