OPEN LETTER TO PML-N CHIEF NAWAZ SHARIF
Population Tyranny of Punjab Takes Away Revenues of Sindh
Courtesy and Thanks: Daily Ibrat, Nov. 13, 2009
By Javed Qazi, Karachi, Sindh
We acknowledge to the fact that you, your family and the Party had struggled at a great length for the restoration of democracy in the country. Your sacrifices have bare fruit that today not only the democracy is restored but also judiciary is relatively independent. We categorically share with you the same principle that these are fundamentally the military dictatorships that have weakened the country and it is only the democratic process which not only strengthens the democracy but shall also make the country become stable and sovereign along with the democratic process. Having this common interest with you today we feel contented to discuss with you this fact as well that ours is the democracy which has federalism as its basic component.
It therefore is not the mere majority as a rule but also the recognition of federating units and their proportionate vote in the lower house and of equal strength as federating unit in the upper house of the parliament, so that one province can not create its tyranny on population base. It has Council of Common Interest for the resolution of interprovincial disputes. Such forum according to the spirit of the constitution is permanent body. Our constitution is elastic also to any amendment that shall strengthen federalism as it is foremost important and inalienable component of basic structure of the constitution. Irony is that our constitution has lived much of its life in abeyance as well as till date not fully operative.
Sir, it was under your auspicious position as the prime minister during 90s that a fair water accord was achieved. You had categorically said that no Kala Bagh dam shall be built at the cost of compromising the federalism. No doubt such principle stand raises you above to the Punjab centric notion and thus extends you the stature of national leader, a leader who reflects not to the feeling and aspiration of one province alone but to the people of all provinces.
People of Sindh have long historical relations with the people of Punjab; we share history, culture and most of all the Indus of which you stand upper riparian and us the lower. However, we believe that still there are a few gray areas that bring a lot of misunderstanding between the people of two provinces yet it is no doubt that your party’s government in Punjab understands and has a reasonable acceptance that conflicts between us should be resolved amicably.
At our end it is a people representative provincial government either. It’s also believed generally in the nationalist circles of Sindh that this party has compromised to the interest of Sindh as it has its reasonable vote bank in Punjab and can not form its government in the center without Punjab. Here PPP argues that 1974 NFC award was highly transitional due to the different context and reference of that time. Irony is that even after 35 years we are not able to change such method that is contrary to the very spirit of the federation and thus to the constitution of Pakistan.
Prior to partition of 1971 we were divided in two units, power centers of Punjab at that time made one unit of West Pakistan just to counter population strength of East Pakistan. At their side it was natural to be one unit and here in West Pakistan it was unnatural and highly coercive. West Pakistan was more revenue generating and East Pakistan was more in population. To avoid the tyranny of population since power centers of Punjab, who were controlling the center, created a parity system. But when today since power centers of Punjab still control the center, they this time speak different story and protect Punjab on the grounds East Pakistan advocates were overruled.
You will recognize in all these years the federal spirit or provincial autonomy had been the hard hit area and the victim. Which has again created full blown separatist feelings in entire Baluchistan, and in Sindh such feelings after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto have increased. People of Sindh believe that we have given a lot of sacrifices in saving the federation and our leaders have been assassinated for that. Chashama Jehlum link canal was made on the guarantee that it shall be filled only when there will be high floods. On the contrary it has become permanent canal at the cost of Sindh. Without taking many concerned matters of inter-provincial in nature to the CCI, the decisions have been made, such as Thal canal project. And there are hundreds of the facts one can put here in this respect that how PPP is at one place party that has democratic spirit and at another place it’s not reflecting to the spirit of the federal democracy.
In Sindh people do have apprehension for you and your party also: That it is a party which represents the Punjab nationalism which is not genuine but very chauvinistic and reactionary in nature and that you keep yourself soft to the repression of center that is made with smaller provinces because the center is per say Punjab; That 80% percent of the people of Punjab directly and indirectly are employees in the federations; That any development which is carried out in the federal territory goes also serving to the welfare of the Punjab as there is 80% population living in the federal territory is from Punjab. 90% personnel of the armed forces are from Punjab.
Most importantly the most strategic area of the federation the Q block in the federal secretariat where decisions of fiscal nature take place, does not have single Sindhi or Baloch peon even. We had sent three elected prime ministers. And they were assassinated in Rawalpindi.
We also acknowledge to this fact that you had been made victim too, but again if justice is to be given to any it’s the right of the politicians of Punjab and not to other provinces. You surely have received at least justice from the Supreme Court but not our Zulifqar Ali Bhutto or Benazir Bhutto. Even those judges who had ordered to hang Bhutto were from Punjab. Had their been truly a federal court as you had agreed this time with Benazir in CoD that there should be a federal court having two judges of each province, Bhutto the asset of the nation the true anti imperialist leader may had been with us and we may had had achieved the much awaited sovereignty, which every dictator had sold on peanuts.
Sir, all this we have brought in your notice to let you feel the wound the federation has received at a time when after twelve years again some serious work under the recently announced NFC is underway. So far meetings of the NFC had been in light of the issues that were basically between federation and the provinces. First time there has been a realization at the federation level that it is unconstitutional to collect GST on services and it has principally agreed to surrender it back to provinces. Sindh has lost almost Rs. 200 billion in this respect over the last 12 years. There was a reasonable amount of GST on services Punjab had a right to collect, however, the percentage set for Punjab to receive from divisible pool, which is extension of the population based criteria, gets Punjab back the same amount again. Punjab had therefore been not resolute on this issue and thus smaller provinces have apprehension that elder brother has always safeguarded to the unjustified position of Islamabad rather than having its unity with its younger brothers. There is an apprehension that all that is received by the federation is spent indirectly on Punjab. And also Punjab contributes hardly any penny; it is primarily Sindh who contributes in the expenses of federation. It eases the burden of Punjab as population based criteria gets it back almost the same amount as it generates for the federal consolidated fund. On the contrary Sindh contributes 70% percent but receives just 23% percent.
At one place we indirectly maintain Punjab as the federation is manifestation of economic activity and political power to the Punjab, at another place under population based criteria for the divisible amount or horizontal distribution Punjab gets back, almost all, directly it puts in the federal consolidated fund.
This issue astonished to we all that provincial autonomy or fiscal autonomy should also have been the matter of concern for Punjab for all principle stands but why is it that rest of all provinces raise their voice and Punjab hardly pays it attention? It implies and supports to the apprehension that Punjab and the federation are the two names of same coin.
It was promised by you being the prime minister at that time that octroi tax is creating hurdle in the efficiency if it shall continue to be collected at “naka” level; it therefore shall be collected by the federation and would be given back respectively to the provinces. Ironically this was made the part of the federal consolidated fund to be distributed horizontally and vertically. The people of Sindh hold that Punjab receives almost same amount of octroi tax back as having its large population and consequent to population based criteria of horizontal distribution. And this is the reason that Punjab has been silent.
Sir, we at NFC Action Committee, however, honestly believe that this time there is realization in the center as well as in Punjab, with regard to the sensitivities of these delicate matters that if these are not addressed shall hamper to the federal knit. It therefore is duty of elder bother to raise this issue together with smaller brothers to the center.
This population base formula means the more may be extracted from Sindh without appreciating and acknowledging the fact that when it is generating 70% in the total pool, it deserves to be extended a bonus at least or in other words revenue generating weighted criteria in addition to population, it shall equally be taken into account that this is a federation and any of our brother who is underdeveloped and poor, such as Baluchistan, should also be given weighted criteria and thus acknowledging to its backwardness
Horizontal distribution according to universal definition reflects basically to the vertical distribution that by effect which province shall contribute how much to the federation and in principle it also makes the remote areas be addressed and thus bring the skew between the provinces relatively down horizontally and shall also appreciate to the major resource generating federating unit by awarding it a bonus.
Contrary to this universal principle, here the divisible pool mechanism was made on single criteria of population: higher the population lesser the contribution, which by effect meant higher the generation and if it has the much lower population should cancel its development and pay for two way development of Punjab. One Punjab is in shape of federal government and territory, its employees in the civil and military bureaucracy, second by allowing Punjab to continue its direct development by contributing less in the so called federation. Nowhere in the world is such practice on. Nowhere in the world could any one recognize it as a federation. It is not corresponding to the universal definition of federation, it is contravening to the definition defined in our constitution also.
Such formula encourages to the feeling of separation that why should I be a part of such arrangement where I am the major feeding factor and the rest not only doesn’t acknowledge such truth but also there is the one federating unit of the arrangement who contributes hardly any penny in the maintenance of the center and also the center is just a manifestation of its interest and growth.
In India their NFC has a multifactor distribution, the weighted average to the population is extended only up to 10% percent. More importantly, there the GST on services and on goods is not part of the consolidated fund. And consequent upon that their democracy is not only the democracy but also it is a federal democracy. Where as here, first there is lack of democracy and federal democracy is still miles away and may harm the existence of the country.
Sir, on 18th of this month the NFC meeting shall take place in Karachi, and the issues that shall be under discussion will range to the area of horizontal distribution. Any constructive and positive response from the government of Punjab shall send a highly promising message that your party and you also acknowledge to the federal nature of this country.
Sir, how important is the cohesion and peace between Sindh and Punjab in particular and in all the provinces generally. Neither you can grow without Sindh nor do we. Today with the grace of God we are generating 70% of the gas that is consumed across the country, almost 55% of the oil and we have world largest deposits of coal. We have a port. And of course our legitimate right on Indus being its lower riparian, that travel through Punjab. We are resource for the Punjab, Punjab can not survive without us and of course we have same interest with the Punjab. We do acknowledge the democratic spirit that recently has developed there, which unfortunately had lacked there. The language and music of Punjab, we understand very well and love and cherish to it like as it is ours and particularly the culture and language of southern Punjab. The great sufi poets of Punjab. All that we believe that it is part of our soul and spirit. We are not the neighbors alone. We are sole and flesh of each other. The problem is that all the sustainable tyranny under the population formula is breaking the long historical relations. This may put you in trouble more than we could face without you. Still we believe the major de facto power source is Army which is from Punjab, second de facto power is civil bureaucracy that is from Punjab and where as the de jure power is concerned that is supremacy of parliament is still yet to make its course. And you are the one who is also struggling to bring these de facto powers fuse into de jure. Only fair and just could and that is federal democracy.
Sir, we shall also be happy to see you personally visiting Karachi during these days as it is almost two years have passed ever since you have paid last time visit to Sindh. It extends you the feelings of trust in you by the people of Sindh, where your party had also formed the government. People of Sindh increasingly believe that they shall live in Pakistan which is on the democratic process and also on the federal democracy process. And derailment of such process or any other martial law will give them also a right to say good bye to such Pakistan.
If it is not possible for you to visit Karachi, kindly extend us the time that we could come to meet with you in Lahore or Raiwand, before the next meeting of NFC in Lahore.
NFC Action Committee Sindh
Courtesy and Thanks: Daily Ibrat, Friday, Nov. 13, 2009