The role of Council of Common Interests (CCI), a constitutional body tasked to resolve issues between the centre and provinces, has been reduced to a ceremonial entity due to alleged apathy of present and previous governments in making CCI an effective platform of collective decision-making.
This was a bipartisan consensus in an anecdotal survey carried out by this newspaper, however, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) parliamentarians were unwilling to say it on record. Since its establishment in 1973, the CCI has held only 41 meetings, official sources told Business Recorder. Out of these meetings, 30 meetings were held till 2010 before 18th Amendment came into effect, sources said adding that the remaining 11 meetings were held from 2010 to 2019.
Last meeting of CCI was held under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Imran Khan on December 23, 2019.
The 18th Amendment became an Act of Parliament on April 19, 2010, when Pakistan People's Party (PPP) was in power. In the light of 18th Amendment, the CCI, which was functioning under Cabinet Division, was brought under the ambit of Ministry of Inter Provincial Coordination (IPC) with the aim to make it more effective body for the resolution of power-sharing issues between the federation and provinces and to take decisions collectively.
According to Article 153 (2) of the Constitution of Pakistan, the Council shall consist of (a) the Prime Minister who shall be the Chairman of the Council, (b) the Chief Ministers of the Provinces and (c) three members from the Federal Government to be nominated by the Prime Minister from time to time. Recently, opposition parties strongly criticised the PM for not convening CCI meeting to forge a collective strategy against ever increasing challenges posed by coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking to Business Recorder, Leader of the Opposition in Senate Raja Zafar-ul-Haq said the federal government has bypassed the constitutional forums in dealing with coronavirus that has unleashed countrywide devastation. "First, they (government) bypassed the Parliament and took a solo flight in dealing with coronavirus. Now, they have also ignored the CCI. Forums like CCI are there to map out a joint strategy in dealing with national crisis besides ironing out differences between centre and provinces. Federal government ignored the importance of Parliament and CCI and the result is that their response to coronavirus is a complete disaster."
Haq said, CCI can play the role of a bridge between centre and the provinces like Balochistan and KP to alleviate their concerns on different issues. "But we have seen that this government has adopted a totally non-serious attitude in the resolution of disputes," he added. A senator from PTI, requesting anonymity, admitted that the forum of CCI should be made more effective to forge national unity. The source said that IPC Minister Fehmida Mirza made extensive efforts last year to allocate a separate secretariat for CCI, a mandatory requirement under Article 154 (3) but her efforts fell to bureaucratic apathy, an insider said.
"Till date, even a separate secretariat for CCI is a far cry, let alone making CCI more functional and effective," the senator said.