KARACHI: Following a debate on extreme delays in awarding funds through a new National Finance Commission (NFC), the Sindh Assembly on Monday unanimously demanded that the federal government announce the NFC shares to the provinces in the next award.
Members of the Sindh Assembly, which met here with Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani in the chair, spoke for more than two hours in the debate allowed after the house admitted an adjournment motion moved by Pakistan Peoples Party’s Nida Khuhro last week.
As the debate ended, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mukesh Chawla tabled a motion calling the Sindh government to approach the federal government asking it to announce the NFC shares to the provinces.
The motion was unanimously passed. Members of opposition Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan were present in the house but no lawmaker belonging to the Grand Democratic Alliance was present.
The members referred to Article 160 of the Constitution, according to which the president would notify the NFC award after every five years.
Lawmakers question Punjab’s biggest share
The current seventh NFC award gave 42.5 per cent of the divisible pool of taxes to the federal government. The remaining 57.5pc was distributed among the provinces — Punjab got 51.74pc, Sindh 24.55pc, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 14.62pc and Balochistan 9.09pc.
The members questioned the current multiple criteria under which Punjab took the largest share although it was Sindh that contributed up to 70pc to the total kitty.
A minister wants funds’ distribution on the basis of population factor decreased
They said population was still the dominant factor in awarding the NFC, which stood at 82pc. The share for backwardness, poverty and revenue collection was 5pc, 10.3pc and 2.7pc.
Education and Culture Minister Sardar Shah said it was time to reduce the share based on population to a significant level and other criteria should be given more share.
He said the NFC award was not just an issue for the Sindh government or the ruling PPP, but it involved the whole province for which all political parties in Sindh should get united and launch a struggle for the benefit of the people.
“No matter you belong to the PTI, MQM or any other party, we all belong to Sindh and we have to speak for the rights of Sindh,” he said.
He said out of a total area of 140,000 square kilometres of Sindh, just 34pc of it was irrigated by barrages and linked to canal systems; and two-thirds of Sindh equally deserved to be developed at par with the rest.
“To develop such remote vast swathes we need money, we need funds,” he said, adding that the reduction in the population criterion and increase in other factors would benefit Sindh and Balochistan.
He referred to the PTI leadership’s mantra of ‘Naya Pakistan’, saying a new Pakistan could only be possible by abiding by the Constitution.
Mover Nida Khuhro said the way the Centre was “victimising” Sindh for electing the PPP again, the NFC should now be called “No Funds Coming Award”.
She said like the previous government of Nawaz Sharif, the PTI government was not sincere in giving NFC award on time.
She said the federal government had not paid Rs90 billion to Sindh, which forced the provincial government to cut its development budget.
Ms Khuhro said instead of provinces, the federal government should award 3pc from its share to erstwhile Fata. “Such decisions are blatant violations of the Constitution. Neither the prime minister nor the cabinet can take such decisions without amending the Constitution.”
Opposition asks PPP to give a ‘just’ PFC award
All the opposition members supported the treasury member’s adjournment motion, yet they pressed on their demand that the funds coming to provinces should further be channelled to the third tier of government as well.
MQM-P’s Khwaja Izharul Hasan appreciated the fiscal policy teams of the PPP and the MQM, which succeeded in changing the NFC formula in recent years, which was earlier singularly based on the population criterion.
He, however, said Karachi was Sindh’s capital and its greatest revenue producer, yet the megacity was not receiving its due share from the provincial exchequer.
Khwaja Izhar said the Provincial Finance Commission (PFC) in Sindh constituted by the government was not formed justly.
PTI’s parliamentary party leader Haleem Adil Shaikh blamed the provincial government for sending nomination for its member in the NFC after three months despite several reminders sent by Islamabad.
He said it was the Sindh government which should be blamed for a delayed constitution of the NFC.
He also demanded the PFC award claiming that the Sindh government had spent just 15pc of the development budget in the past six months while it allowed Rs391bn meant for development to lapse in the past nine years.
GDA’s Nusrat Abbasi also demanded the formation of the PFC award.
PPP’s Taimur Talpur said it was then president Asif Zardari who gave greater share to the provinces through a progressive NFC award.
GDA’s Arif Jatoi said former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had set up the NFC award based only on the population basis.
MQM-P’s Mohammad Hussain said Sindh had been a victim of the Centre’s “biased” attitude both in the NFC share and the PSDP.
He said all the lawmakers belonging to Sindh from parliament and the provincial assembly should register their protest in Islamabad jointly.
He added that the provincial government should ensure a just PFC award for every district of Sindh.
Jawaid Hanif, Ghanwar Isran, Omar Umari, Abdul Rasheed and Qasim Siraj also spoke.
The house passed The Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Institute of Trauma Karachi Bill, 2018 unanimously. The bill was duly amended and recommended by the select committee.
An adjournment motion moved by PPP’s Sadia Jawed was admitted about the Karachi Circular Railway and a debate regarding the federal government’s promise was fixed for Thursday.
Five calling-attention notices by Haleem Shaikh, Riaz Haider, Marui Rashdi, Nusrat Abbasi and Mangla Sharma were responded to by the ministers concerned.