Islamabad: The 18th constitutional amendment has further complicated constitutional issues and bottlenecks between the provinces and the center with respect to energy sector instead of reducing them and needs to be revisited to help resolve the energy crisis.
This seemed to be the finding of a seminar held titled “18th Constitutional Amendment: Implications for Energy Sector” at the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), Islamabad, which was addressed by Mirza Hamid Hassan, former secretary water & power and chairman IPS Tawanai Program; Muhammad Arif advocate, president Energy Lawyers’ Association, Pakistan; Barrister Saadia Abbasi, member IPS National Academic Council and former senator; Ameena Sohail advocate, senior IPS associate and coordinator of its Tawanai Program; and DG-IPS Khalid Rahman.
It was also pointed out that the 18th amendment was generally misconstrued and has created a number of misconceptions even among the provincial and federal governments which were leading to unwarranted demands.
Muhammad Arif focused mainly upon the impact of 18th amendment on the petroleum sector and said that through insertion of a new sub-section in Article 172 of the constitution the mineral and natural resources within the province vests “jointly and equally” in that province and the federal government.
He observed that this new arrangement has given birth to demands by the provinces which even include establishment of provincial regulatory authorities, division of OGDCL and PPL and direct interaction with E&P companies. Terming these demands based upon misunderstandings, he said that the Federal Government had not been able to manage the changes incorporated through 18th amendment hence process of awarding new exploration blocks for oil and gas remains halted since June 2010 as one manifestation of anomalies created by this amendment.
“On an overall basis, 18th Amendment has more negative impact on an overall basis on the energy sector than it can be presumed”, he opined.
Barrister Saadia Abbasi said that for any positive change in the situation a long term planning with coordinated approach is inevitable.
“Unless a policy is made with the consultation of all stakeholders and with the confidence of consistency despite change in the government, it cannot be expected to bring any good news”, she said.
She was of the opinion that despite the fact that the provinces had been given the power to generate electricity on their own, they could not actually do it due to number of bottlenecks including lack of expertise, resources, inability to provide sovereign guarantees to solicit international funding and above all a national coordination plan.
Ameena Sohail advocate presented the pre and post 18th amendment scenarios with respect to power sector and highlighted that it was a misconception that this amendment has given freedom to provinces to generate electricity while they were restricted from doing so prior to it. She said that actually the power to construct power houses and grid stations, lay transmission lines, levy taxes or draw distribution preferences were with the provinces before 18th amendment and remained with them even after it.
“What 18th amendment has merely done is the reassurance that the federal government shall not take a decision to construct a hydro-electric power station in any province without consultation of the provincial government concerned”, she underlined.
The real conflict that has arisen was actually been created by moving electricity to the federal list after abolition of concurrent list in result of which provinces, though empowered to generate and distribute energy, find it difficult to execute their plans.
Mirza Hamid Hassan concluded the session with the observation that there was need to revisit the 18th amendment and take all the stakeholders and experts on board.
He said that the dichotomy of jurisdiction to legislate and power to execute has been further enhanced by 18th amendment which is creating host of issues ultimately affecting the masses and national development.