February 23, 2022: PILDAT organised an online discussion titled “Comparing Evolution of Federalism in Pakistan & Australia: Are there lessons to learn?” for Pakistani parliamentarians, provincial legislators and officials of various political parties. Two eminent speakers – Mr. Sartaj Aziz, former Federal Minister of Finance and Foreign Affairs and Dr. Moeen Cheema, Associate Professor at the College of Law, Australian National University (ANU), initiated the discussion based on the papers they had written at PILDAT’s invitation. The discussion was organized and papers were produced with the support of the Australian High commission’s Direct Aid Programme. Mr. John Snobar, Second Secretary (Development) at the Australian High Commission, Islamabad also briefly spoke.
Former Federal Minister for Finance, Foreign Affairs and a Development Economist and an alumnus of Harvard University, Mr. Sartaj Aziz addressed the participants of the online seminar. Mr. Aziz talked about the challenges faced by Pakistan a decade after the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution and discussed the context behind the continuing political debate on constitutional and financial powers of the federation and its units and the ToRs of the 10th National Finance Commission. He was of the opinion that there was no need to revisit the Eighteenth Constitutional Amendment as it addressed the critical issue of provincial autonomy and transferred substantial powers and functions from the Federal to the Provincial Governments. He also felt that the 18th Amendment also strengthened the Federal Parliamentary system by securing greater participation of all the federating units. He was however, of the opinion that the capacity of the Provincial governments needs to be enhanced to deal with the devolved subjects under the eighteenth amendment. The provinces need to be encouraged to increase their revenues so that their dependence on the divisible pool can be reduced and a balance can be achieved between the center and the province in terms of revenues.
Dr. Moeen Cheema, Associate Professor at the College of Law, Australian National University (ANU) while talking at the seminar talked about the Evolution of Federalism in Australia. He briefly touched upon the history of Federalism and Constitutional formation in Australia how the federal structure distributes powers and resources between the Australian federal government and State governments. Dr. Cheema also touched upon the Fiscal Federalism and sated that a federation cannot be maintained without fiscal federalism. If a nation chooses a federal form of government fiscal decentralization becomes necessary. Fiscal federalism is implicit in the idea of a federation. A system where local units exist only as dependents of a central government or as its service providing agents is a federation only in a trivial sense. The factual existence of a regional unit is based on its economic existence. This is not possible without a measure of fiscal autonomy. Talking about the Fiscal Federalism he further said that the rich states get a lesser share from the divisible pool as they are able to generate more revenues from their local resources.
Earlier Mr. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, President PILDAT welcome the participants and provided a background for the discussion session. Mr. John Snobar, Second secretary Political of the Australian High Commission in Pakistan also attended the seminar and in his remarks welcomed the participants.
Following members of the Parliament, Provincial Assemblies and members of the political parties attended the online session.
Dr. Ayesha Ghaus Pasha, MNA (PML-N), Ms. Shaza Fatima Khawaja, MNA (PML-N), Mr. Bilal Kiyani (PML-N), Mr. Rehmat Saleh Baloch (NP), Mr. Abdul Khaliq Baloch (NP), Mr. Khair Baksh Baloch (NP) Mr. Ali Ahmed Langua (NP) Mr. Kabir Muhammad Shahi, Senator (NP), Mr. Waleed Bizenjo (NP), Mr. Muhammad Akram Dashti, Senator (NP), Ms. Khalida Ateeb, Senator (MQMP), Mr. Ali Khurshidi, MPA (MQMP), Ms. Sabeen Ghouri (MQMP) Mr. Khulaid Shafi (MQMP)
Mr. Ahmed Karim Kundi, MPA, Mr. Saleem Khan Advocate (ANP), Ms. Rabia Sattar (ANP), Syed Akhtar Ali Shah (ANP), Eng. Ijaz Yousafzai (ANP), Mr. Arsalan Taj, MPA (PTI), Ms. Aaliya Hamza, MNA (PTI), Mr. Mussadiq Ghumman (PTI), Mr. Mohsin Khan Leghari , MPA Provincial Minister (PTI), Dr. Talat Anwar, (PTI), Ms. Zulekha Mandokhel (PTI)