Education, Development, and Change
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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Rethinking social sector


Rethinking social sector after the 18th Amendment
Roundtable on 17 March
Associated Press Service
ISLAMABAD: Participants of roundtable on ‘Rethinking social sector after the 18th Amendment’appreciating the Parliament for historic democratic engineering in the shape of 18th Constitutional Amendment exhorted the need for holding hand in transition phase besides creating effectiveoperational mechanisms. Members of political, civil and academic society from all over the country participated in day-long deliberations arranged by the Centre for Civic Education and Forum of Federations.Speakers said,the Parliament has made the Constitution pro-society and we need out of box solutions to make this devolution successful. “Social investments in Pakistan are already meager and the Implementation processes must clarify the cost of devolution and who is going to foot the bill for devolved ministries,” demanded the participants.Begum Shahnaz Wazir Ali, member National Assembly endorsed the need for nationwide constitutional literacy as the 18th Amendment has changed the centralist state to be a real federation. “Inclusion of Right to Education as judiciable fundamental right requires corresponding legal regime,policies and action plans,” she emphasized. Farahnaz Isphahani of Pakistan Peoples’ Party said we have to come out
of colonial mindset of retaining centralized powers and called for trusting the abilities of provinces to deliver social services. She acknowledged the challenges and described the way forward bit bumpy to retain power. Bushra Gohar of Awami National Party recalling the 18th Amendment lauded democratic consensus in a divided society where balkanization was being feared but the parliament has offered hope. “To make the devolution meaningful and provide better services, the provinces must take immediate steps to establish functional local governments,” demanded the participants saying we have to involve people in decision making. Pakistan had been a graveyard of federally planned and provincially executed non-functional projects and plans. “Even out of the low social investments most of the times the development budgets remained unutilized. Time has come to reform civil service with
futuristic vision so that their role in not reduced to ‘Fire-fighters.’ Allies of status quo will make the road to devolution bumpy and democratic handholding will be required in terms of sharing resources and enhancing capacities and competences,” many participants highlighted. As a nation we will require fiscal prudence and increased social spending as the provincial share in the National Finance Commission Award has increased, they have fifty percent control over natural resources, got General Sales Tax on services, duties in respect of succession of property, estate duty,capital gains and provincial powers to raise loans.The participant criticized ‘crowded parking’ of various institutions and mandates at the Cabinet division,Rethinking social sector after the 18th Amendment Economic Affairs Division, Inter Provincial Coordination Ministry and the Planning Division. Higher Education Commission (HEC) related controversies figured prominently as there were proponents of a federal level commission and devolutionists who presented their arguments. Vice chancellor of University of Gujrat, Dr. Nizamuddin stressed the need of clear operational and institutional
mechanisms to provide better services. Vice Chancellor of Quaid-i-Azam University, Dr.Masoom Yasinzai said the universities in the Federal capital must not be left at the mercy of newly created division to look after the issues and institutions in Islamabad. Pro-devolution Dr. Khadim Hussain and Dr. Ijaz Khan said, “Devolution after 18th Amendment is a reality and proposed that the future provincial arrangements shall neither be bureaucratic nor technocratic, rather democratic and academically independent.”Dr. Nasser Ali Khan, Farmanullah Anjum, Dr. Shahid Siddiqui, Dr. Rasul Bakash Rais,Prof. Shabir Shah,Zafar Ismail, Dr. Farzana Bari, Amjad Bhatti also shared their views on different aspects
of post 18th Amendment devolution and corresponding challenges in social sector. “Capacity does not grow in Islamabad alone,” said Dr. Fauzia Saeed. Dr. Syed Jaffar Ahmed said timeframe forimplementation shall be extended as there will be teething problems.The speakers complained about lack of information and ostensible communication gaps
between theImplementation Commission, devolved ministries and the relevant stakeholders. The Commission must arrange hearings with relevant stakeholders and involve experts as mentioned in its terms of reference,they demanded. The speakers also demanded to mainstream Federally AdministeredTribal Areas(FATA). To set the context, Zafarullah Khan, executive Director Centre for Civic Education made a presentation on Understanding the Constitution, Federalism and the 18th Amendment. “In order to make sense about
the 18th amendment we need to look at the set of policy recommendations and notes of reiterations as pending politics along with the actual amendment,” he said and urged to use experiences of 28 federations in the world.Associated Press Service