The Balochistan High Court (BHC) on Tuesday annulled the notification issued by President Dr. Arif Alvi for the constitution of the 10th National Finance Commission (NFC), ruling that the appointment of NFC members was not in accordance with the constitution. In its judgment, the court also annulled the appointments of Finance Adviser Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and the federal finance secretary as members of the NFC. The court has declared that Hafeez Shaikh cannot be a member of 10th NFC.
BHC order on NFC: Inclusion of Hafeez, secy finance invalid https://t.co/kKcqYpANLQ
— Barrister Zamir Ghumro (@zamirghumro) June 24, 2020
The court, while issuing orders for implementation of Article 160 for the appointment and procedure of members of NFC Awards, remarked that the Balochistan governor should appoint a new member from the province on the recommendation of the provincial government.
Since the country does not have a regular/elected finance minister, President Dr Arif Alvi authorized the inclusion of Shaikh in the commission to enable him to chair meetings of the NFC otherwise there was no room in the Constitution for an adviser to be even a member of the commission let alone preside over its meetings.
Hafeez Shaikh cannot be a member of 10th NFC: Balochistan’s perspective
Balochistan is Pakistan’s largest province in terms of land but it has been facing several challenges ranging from structural, administrative, political to economic since the inception of Pakistan. Civilian governments and military regimes attempted to resolve the question of political underrepresentation and economic exploitation of the people of Balochistan. However, there could have been no considerable successes.
Earlier, Javed Jabbar was nominated to represent the province. But it was protested and Mr. Jabbar had to step aside.
It is worth noting that the decision that Javed Jabbar would represent Balochistan in the 10th NFC Award has raised many questions in the political realm. Maria Malik, an academic and researcher, has recently questioned the inclusion of Javed Jabbar in the commission. Ms. Malik is the author of Balochistan Conundrum: The Real Perspective.
“The opposition and several analysts believe, she maintained, “that the nomination is not representative of Balochistan and its financial interests and concerns and a person more specialized in fiscal matters of Balochistan should have been nominated by the provincial government.”
While commenting on the economic conditions of the people of Balochistan and the 10th NFC Award she highlighted that: “Over 70% of the people in Balochistan live in multi-dimensional poverty and half of the province’s population lives below the poverty line with lack of access to basic health and educational facilities. The province accounts for Pakistan’s 43% of the total landmass and is home to only 6% of its total population. The infrastructural development is almost next to none, highly un-urbanized and the employment opportunities are usually very competitive as the people of the province have to compete against people from other provinces for these job listings.”
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Mohammad Aslam Bhootani, an independent member of the National Assembly from Gwadar-Lasbela, disapproved of Javed Jabbar’s nomination. He told reporters that he would challenge the decision in court. “The chief minister did not find a single qualified person in 10.3 million population of Balochistan to plead Balochistan’s case in the NFC and protect interests of the province?”, he asked.
Notably, the four private members who have a critical role in articulating the views and interests of their federating units. The finance ministers, nominated for the NFC, come from political parties. They are elected representatives and most of them may not be public finance experts. They follow the directions of their respective political leaderships.
The private members are named for the NFC by the provincial governments after approval from their cabinets. They play an important role in achieving consensus on the apportionment of federal taxes among the units of the federation.