Forwarded by Khalid Hashmani (McLean, Virginia, USA)
Courtesy and Thanks:Daily Dawn,
Rights of provinces
RESENTMENT grows when citizens of the state are denied the opportunity to benefit from the exploitation of local resources. Withholding this share in the collective pie does not serve the cause of harmony between the federating units as well as the centre and the provinces. Much to our detriment, we have seen how denying the people of Balochistan rightful control over their mineral and gas wealth has, over the decades, led to disaffection with the state and even full-blown insurgencies.
The gross underdevelopment of regions that should, on paper at least, be among the most prosperous in the country points to an iniquitous system that is yet to be reformed despite 61 years of independence. We know all too well how disputes over the sharing of Indus waters has strained relations between upper and lower riparians, not to mention the devastating blow dealt to coastal ecosystems and livelihoods dependent on downstream resources. We have seen the ill effects of the hostile distinctions made between provinces labelled large or small, irrespective of size or their contribution to the national kitty. These are tags that do nothing for the well-being of the state. These are mistakes that ought to be rectified, not repeated.
Sadly, our learning curve seems to be long. The views aired at a recent workshop in Thatta make for disturbing reading, highlighting as they do the denial of the rights of areas in Sindh that produce a majority of the country’s oil and gas. It was claimed at the workshop that the relevant petroleum concession agreements (PCAs) dictate that companies engaged in oil and gas exploration and production must pay a royalty amounting to 12 per cent to the districts in which these resources are being tapped.
This, apparently, is not happening in a majority of districts. Companies are also expected to spend ‘production bonuses’ on the socio-economic uplift of the areas in which they operate, besides training and hiring local people. Again, these rules are allegedly honoured more in the breach than the observance. In August this year, the Sindh Assembly passed resolutions that urged the provincial government to approach the centre to ensure that all such regulations are followed. Nothing seems to have come of it nor have greater powers been devolved to the provinces by abolishing the Concurrent Legislative List, which this government promised to do when it came to power. It is time to act, for a festering sense of injustice can only spell trouble.
Courtesy and Thanks: Daily Dawn