Making headway inch by inch
An interview with Dr. Kaiser Bangali, heading Chief Minister’s Research Unit in Balochistan
Interview By Manzoor Shaikh
Kaiser Bangali: Sindh and Balochistan should not expect that Islamabad would give them their rights effortlessly; it never happens anywhere, observes Kaiser Bengali, leading Chief Minister’s Research Unit in Balochistan. Implementing 18th Amendment in letter and spirit would require an effort spread over many years and the provinces have to make a huge struggle for that.
Q: Why aren’t the provinces improving even after 5 years of the 18th Amendment that brought them vast powers of decisions making and control over their resources?
KB: There are many factors and one of them is that the provinces grew up docile from the very beginning. They were made to act as the federal government directed them. It is like you don’t let the children do things independently. So, the provinces are still dependent on the federal government. Now, it will take time until they start functioning on their own.
Along with such a tendency, there are many other issues which need to be resolved. For instance, the constitution was amended in favour of the provinces but the sub-laws still remain the same, blocking the implementation of the 18th Amendment. Now when it comes to exercise the powers of the provinces, the unavailability of subsequent laws blocks the provinces to act independently.
We encountered such an issue very recently when Balochistan’s Additional Secretary Mining signed a document in Islamabad for awarding exploration licenses on 50 blocks of which 21 are in Balochistan. It angered Chief Minister Dr. Malik as the decision did not reflect the spirit of the provincial autonomy. When we went through the details, we found out that all that happened was due to the absence of sub-laws required to implement the 18th Amendment of the constitution.
“Then we engaged into a detailed exercise and amended mining laws and rules of business and sent them to the Council of Common Interests (CCI) for approval and subsequent reference to the parliament so that the share of the provinces in mineral resources including oil and gas be reflected at all levels.”.
Now when the laws would be amended properly by the parliament then only the provinces would become the partners truly and have their say in the decision-making process.
Q: What amendments Balochistan have made in the laws?
KB: We have included ‘relevant provincial departments’ along with the federal government.
Q: Would it ensure respective partnership of the provinces in mineral wealth? Would the provinces get their share in profits, jobs and management?
KB: It’s all about control and ownership. If we own the mineral resources then the provinces might lose in case of losses. If they have control then they would gain.
If the Article 171, Clause 3 is implemented in letter and spirit then only the provinces would be given representation in the institutions that award exploration licenses. At present the Director General Petroleum Concessions does it exclusively. He is the only decision-maker. Now, there would be an institution which would function through consultative process.
Q: Is it so simple that the power long vested with the federal government would be floated for sharing?
KB: It always happens everywhere that the powerful tends to attempt get more. The provinces have to fight their case. It depends upon their struggle. No one can have rights without struggle. We have taken such step at least.
Such spirit won GST on services for the provinces. Now, Sindh collects around Rs.60 billion and it is proved the provinces have such an ability.
At present, we are coordinating with Sindh also. We share what we are doing. We are in touch with the technical experts in Sindh where an expertise has developed now.
Q: Could the provinces expect the CCI would move quickly to be a real forum?
KB: Yes there are issues. The CCI is required to setup its secretariat and also the modus operandi for agenda setting wherein any one province is able to include its issue in the agenda. At present, all four provinces are required to give comments for inclusion of any item in the agenda. Also, it’s now over 10 months that the CCI has not met. It is against the constitution.
Though there are many things which are moving in positive direction but the relation between the centre and the provinces is to be defined and it would be done through practice. For example, we see Sindh Revenue Board emerging successful otherwise it would have been floated as failure of the provinces.
The experience around the world shows it takes time. The provinces are to develop capacity and take control of their development. They should have their own planning commissions and the present Planning Commission should act as a coordinating body.
Q: Is security a major hindrance for development in Balochistan?
KB: Politically yes. Technically there is no obstacle. Balochistan can be provided with a modern infrastructure within a decade. The people in Balochistan do not hinder development whereas in Sindh Cabinet there are many people who impede development and setting up of industries as they feared the development could deprive them of their specific interests.
As far the insurgency is concerned, there exists a misunderstanding and also a kind of presumption. Out of 32 districts, only two are affected. They are Turbat and Panjgore. Khuzdar has improved. Random incidents do not count much. Such incidents occur in Karachi also.
The real issue is not the law and order situation. It is absence of the infrastructure. You cannot go to Quetta directly from Gwadar by road. Turbat and Quetta are not connected too.