Finally the Federal Government removed the Finance Advisor and the Finance secretary from the National Finance Commission (NFC) after facing legal challenges in various high courts on the constitution of the 11-member NFC on 12th May, 2020. After elimination of the mentioned two members, a fresh notification with 9-members and revised TORs was submitted to the Islamabad High Court (IHC) that disposed-off a petition from PML-N that had challenged the inclusion of Abdul Hafeez Sheikh and Finance Secretary in NFC.
Government issues a new notification with 9 members and revised TORs
The fresh notification stated that Dr. Kaiser Bengali took the place of Javed Jabbar as non-statutory member from Baluchistan on the NFC who had resigned last month after the objection from some Baloch politicians for not belonging to the province he had been representing so far. As a matter of interest, Dr. Bengali who had served previous three NFCs representing Sindh and Baluchistan is also a non-Baloch.
Headed by the Federal Finance Minister the reconstituted NFC now includes the finance ministers from the four provinces as statutory members while the non-statutory members include Tariq Bajwa (Punjab), Dr. Asad Sayeed (Sindh), Musharraf Rasool (KPK) and Dr. Kaiser Bengali (Baluchistan).
Interestingly the newly replaced member of Baluchistan Dr. Kaiser Bengali is also a non-Baloch
The government has now eliminated some specific subjects from the previous notification and added a fresh subject advising that the provinces would likely share the financial burden of national development projects and take up a portion of some unspecified additional fiscal responsibilities.
The most important removed subject was related to the exploration of ways to decrease the losses of enterprises owned by the state besides harmonizing the mechanism for sharing these losses among the Federal Government and the provinces.
Another item eradicated from the commission’s Terms of Reference was to assess and allocate the resources to expenditures related to the Governments of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and newly merged districts of KPK [formerly known as Fata].
The other three specific items exterminated by the Federal Government included the assessment and allocation of resources for security and natural disasters, public debt and its repayment and subsidies and their financing mechanism. Three new TORs have been added as a replacement of the deleted ones.
It is still anticipated that the revised NFC will also have to face a major legal challenge as the stakeholder had raised their concerns over the exact population of the country and especially highlighted Karachi in this connection because the results of National Population Census 2017 have not been released yet. PML-N leader Khurram Dastgir Khan (Petitioner) declared outside the Islamabad High Court that the decision was the victory of Constitution and Law; mentioning that the government had ignored the constitutional process while establishing the NFC that required a consultation with the governor mandatory to appoint the NFC members from provinces. Adding further he said that the court had given the Finance Ministry a complete opportunity to present the record however the institution could not satisfy the court in this regard. Khurram told that Baluchistan High Court had already suspended the nomination of the Finance Advisor and various TORs.
He added that his party had challenged the NFC notification after realizing that it was nothing but an attack on the Constitution and resources of the provinces. He said that PML-N was reviewing the new notification and the new strategy would be made after reading it.