The Council of Common Interests is an important organ of the State. The recent meeting of the reconstituted CCI dealt with a large number of issues and resolved most of them. The eight- member CCI is headed by the Prime Minister ( PM) and includes the four provincial Chief Ministers ( CMs) and federal ministers for Inter- Provincial Coordination, Industries and Production, and Finance. However, in the present reconstituted CCI, the ruling coalition has an overwhelming majority, with Sindh CM Syed Murad Ali Shah the only opposition member. Amongst other issues taken up, the CCI meeting agreed on implementation of the AGN Kazi formula for net hydel profits. The formula has been a topic of discussion in government circles for decades, but its non- implementation has caused much ruction amongst the provinces and between the provinces and the Centre.
Among other things, the CCI agreed to resolve the SindhBalochistan water crisis by asking the two CMs to settle the issue of shortage of water in the Pat Feeder and Kirthar Canals bilaterally. The demand for an additional 650 MGD for Karachi was referred to the National Water Council to make recommendations keeping in view the present water supply situation and a formula for water distribution among the provinces. Better education facilities, based on coordination between the Centre and the provinces, and the implementation of a uniform education system across the country were highlighted and the Higher Education Commission was asked for its recommendations within a month.
Prime Minister Imran Khan assured the CMs that the federal government would take them all on board to solve their problems. He also advocated a comprehensive and transparent monitoring system for water distribution among the provinces to provide accurate and timely information, the absence of which causes misunderstandings. The CCI reviewed Balochistan's energy, education and health problems. It set up a task force and a special committee to implement the decisions of all regulatory bodies of the federal government and maintain a uniform standard of food items and their quality throughout the country.
A countrywide cleanliness drive will be launched on October 7, 2018. Another task force was formed to review the devolution of the Workers Welfare Fund and Employees Old- age Benefit Institution to the provinces. Two summaries of the Ministry of Energy on amendment to the Petroleum ( Exploration and Production) Policy 2012 and import of LNG were referred to the Economic Coordination Committee. The federal government announced its intention to bring forth the LNG import agreements signed by the previous government.
The heavy agenda and deliberations of the CCI in its very first meeting indicate that there are a number of left- over items for it to deal with, as well as new issues that keep cropping up. This highlights the need for the CCI to meet regularly to defuse conflicts and disagreements amongst the provinces and between them and the Centre. Given the fraught history of the federation, this is critical. However, a word of caution would not be out of place here. Although the PTI enjoys power in the Centre, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and is part of a governing coalition in Balochistan, it must not allow this to go to its head.
PM Imran Khan's reassuring words to the provinces are important because of the current political landscape and the 18th Amendment that has devolved many more powers to the provinces. The delicate relationship in the past between the Centre and the provinces has been rendered even more delicate as a result. Adhering to democratic principles, extending respect to the people's mandate and respecting the enhanced provincial autonomy is the only wise path for a smooth functioning of the federation. And the CCI must be made active and effective to help forge consensus on prickly issues in the overall interests of the country.