Provincial status a fool's paradise
By Dj Mathal
In the province of Sindh these days, rains and floods have rendered thousands of people homeless and destroyed property worth billions of rupees. The intensity of the floods is said to be out of proportion mainly due to the lack of coordination and preparations by the provincial government departments. When thousands of people have been displaced and marooned, the federal government instead of coming to the rescue of the affected people, as usual, has appealed for international help though the crisis could (and should) have been managed through the resources available with the government itself.
On the one hand, the federal government has started seeking alms from other countries in the name of the affected people and on the other it has failed to control its luxurious lifestyles, corruption and nepotism. It is also taking such steps which will definitely lead to more dissentions and cracks in the already fragmented society. One of these steps of the federal government is imposing a ban on recruitments in the public sector organizations that has further alienated the youth already reeling under the burden of unemployment and inflation. Through a notification the federal government has directed the departments concerned that no new appointment should be made during the fiscal year 2011-12. This has also created fear and disappointment among the people of Gilgit-Baltistan. Though some sections of society here are of the view that Gilgit-Baltistan is no more under the federal government and is treated as a separate province and, therefore, the notification will not affect it. The chief minister, Mehdi Shah, told the legislative assembly on Sept 13 that appointments on vacant posts as advertised on Aug 16 would be made as per schedule and he had no information about any ban on new recruitments. However, he told the house later that there would be no new appointments after filling of the vacant posts as advertised on Aug 16. He said the federal government has informed him that due to the devastating floods in the province of Sindh, the national economy would not be in a position to create more vacancies. He said the federal government had also told the provincial government to put a ban on the allowances of its employees. The law minister, Wazir Shakil said that if the provincial government followed the directives of the federal government, there would be lots of problems for the former. The issue would be taken up with the prime minister of Pakistan to persuade him not to implement the ban in Gilgit-Baltistan because it did not come under the federal government and was treated a separate province, he added.
The assurances given by the chief minister and Wazir Shakil notwithstanding; there is confusion about the issue in the region. This confusion was also substantiated by the speaker and deputy speaker of the GBLA during the session of the house. They repeatedly asked the 'provincial' government to clarify the position of the federal government regarding the recruitment ban.
It is a fact that the federal government has no constitutional powers to impose any financial restrictions on a province unless and until it is authorized to do so through amendments to the constitution. However, can the chief minister of Gilgit-Baltistan, the speaker or the leader of the opposition in the legislative assembly tell the nation whether there is any federal institution or ministry working in Sindh or any other province of Pakistan like the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan which deals with the affairs of Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir?
Is there any such institution in Punjab where the PPP is in the opposition and wants to get some powers to have a say in the affairs of the province? Is there any federal ministry or any other institution working or overseeing the affairs of Balochistan where law and order situation is almost out of government control and where terrorists and criminals rule the roost? If the four provinces of Pakistan have no such federal ministry or other institution to manage their affairs it is because these provinces are the four key components of the federation of Pakistan. On the other hand, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan have no provincial status and are not parts of the federation. The constitution of Pakistan says that when the political status of these two regions is determined through a plebiscite under the United Nations and when these two regions join Pakistan as its integral parts, Islamabad will then determine their political and economic status and the constitution of the country will be implemented there.
There is no denying the fact that Gilgit-Baltistan is still under the administrative control of the government of Pakistan and will remain so till its status is decided through the UN. It is because of this very reason that there is a fully fledged ministry to run the affairs Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir. Under the 18th amendment, a number of ministries, divisions and departments have been devolved to the provinces but the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan remained with the federal government. Moreover, under the 2009 self-governance and autonym order, all powers have been given to the ministry of Kashmir affairs.
Wazir Shakil and others should understand that the 2009 package was announced in order to lessen the sense of deprivation and anger among the people of Gilgit-Baltistan and to bloc the way of nationalist parties in the region. It was claimed at that time that powers were being transferred to the area and there would be revolutionary development in the region. But all such claims turned out to be as hollow as they did in the past.
Now to say that due to the floods in Sindh, the ban on recruitment would also be implemented in Gilgit-Baltistan is a cruel joke. If the centre is not authorized to enforce its economic decision on the provinces, why the ban on recruitment is to be implemented in the region after Aug 16? It is not possible that the rising unemployment in the region would be controlled through filling of a few vacancies for which advertisements had been placed in the national press last month.
We are of the opinion that the government should take up the ban on recruitment issue with the centre and persuade the latter that this restriction should not be implemented in the region. Otherwise the decision will have long-term repercussions on the economy of the region where people have been finding it very hard to make ends meet due to the rising inflation and unemployment.