Reviews Constitutional Reforms Process and Package

Examining Constitutional Journey towards Federalism

A meeting of National Policy Advisory Group (NPAG) was held to discuss and debate Constitutional Reforms in Pakistan on April 8, 2010 at Islamabad. The NPAG is a platform of leading experts including political leaders, academics and civil society activists from across the country interested in an informed dialogue and focused discussion on issues vital for strengthening federalism in Pakistan. Similar advisory groups have also been constituted in all the four provinces to solicit views of provincial stakeholders and widen the scope of dialogue on analyzing various federal options. Earlier, meetings of the provincial advisory groups were held in respective provincial capitals to take stock of the Constitution review process.

A large number of people attended the meeting, with representation from members of the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reforms, current and former Parliamentarians, leaders and members of major political parties, representatives of civil society groups, diplomats, advisors to chief ministers of Balochistan and Sindh, and distinguished academics from across the country.

The discussants underpinned the product and promise of constitutional reform process as well as the overall performance of the Constitutional Reforms Committee in particular the strong will to restore and strengthen the federal features of the 1973 constitution; to abolish the Concurrent List; to transfer part of the revenues of the General Sales Tax (GST) to provinces; to strengthen intergovernmental institutions and mechanisms; and to reform the Senate competences. And most importantly, the North-West Frontier Province shall be renamed into Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

While acknowledging the draft Bill prepared by the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reforms as a historic step forward, participants also highlighted various unsettled issues, calling for an additional effort to go beyond the package unanimously proposed by the Committee. Comprehensive Senate reforms, complete transference of some taxing powers, the language issue and status of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) were also discussed.

Dr. Werner Thut, Vice President, Forum of Federations, concluded the event with his remarks highlighting the culture of federalism, which means the respect of minorities, the spirit of compromise and sharing. Inter-provincial harmony and a truly democratic electoral system are very close to the spirit of culture of federalism. Part of the culture of federalism is another point that the identity and education has to be generated or created by local government instead by the ruling class at the center very far away.

Federations are not institutions which are carved once in stone and remain like that. That’s not true even in the most established and the most advanced federations. Federations are living institutional bodies. It should be dynamic process.

The successful examples show a federation has a strong center and has strong provinces. There are mechanisms of interaction between the center and the provinces. Having strong provinces does not necessarily mean that the federation is strong.

Dr. Werner Thut, Vice President of Forum of Federations, during his visit to Pakistan had individual meeting with important officials and experts from different walk of life including:
Senator Syed Nayyar Bukhari, Leader of the House, Senate of Pakistan
Senator S.M Zafar, Member, Constitutional Reforms Committee
Dr. Gulfaraz Ahmad Khan, Member the National Finance Commission Award
Muhammad Zahid Mahmood, Federal Secretary Ministry of Inter-provincial Coordination
Amir Khan Guraya, Swiss Development Cooperation
Dr. Tariq Rehman, Director National Institute of Pakistan Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad
Siddiq-ul-Farooq, Joint Secretary, Pakistan Muslim League (N)
Ch. Manzoor Ahmad, Incharge Central Secretariat, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)

Dr. Thut discussed various federalism related issues and offered Forum’s support to strengthen culture and institutions related to federalism in Pakistan.