ISLAMABAD -  Meeting of the Inter-Provincial Coordination Committee (IPCC) has been convened to develop consensus among the provinces and the Federal government on the issues related to Article 154,158 and 172(3) of the Constitution.

The 25th meeting of the IPCC has been convened on September 7 to develop consensus among the Federal government and provinces over the Constitutional issues pertains to oil and gas and higher education.

According the agenda, available with The Nation, the meeting will discuss matters related to higher education and other similar bodies in post-18th Amendment scenario, supply of gas to localities/villages in 5km radius of gas production field, endorsement of policy statement of gas sector reforms, Article 154 and import of LNG. The provinces are demanding the interpretation and implementation of Article 154, 158, and Article 172(3) of the Constitution and wants CCI to decide the matter.

However, in its 32nd meeting the CCI has returned the matters to IPCC and asked the provinces and the govt to first develop a consensus in IPCC and then it should be forwarded to the CCI for approval, official sources said. 

It is pertinent to mention that in March this year, in a major breakthrough, the Federal Government and the provinces had agreed to take all the three matters related to the imported LNG, interpretation of Article 158 and Article 172(3) to CCI for approval. To resolve the issue between the provinces and Centre, the CCI had constituted a Committee comprising of Federal Law Minister as Chairman, all 4 Provincial Law Ministers, Attorney General and all 4 provincial Advocate Generals.

The points in the Terms of Reference of the CCI Committee was to deliberate on LNG, whether it is to be dealt by ECC or CCI; secondly whether Article 158 of the original 1973 Constitution gives the provinces precedence on gas usage still in vogue or has become redundant and lastly a provision of the 18th Amendment how to distribute oil and gas Exploration & Production powers between the Federal Government and provincial governments. The provincial governments of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is against the role of Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of Cabinet and the Cabinet Committee on Energy in the decision making in the matters related to LNG, interpretation of  Article 158 and article 172(3).

The provinces were of the view that the only right forum to make decision in this regard as Council of Common Interest (CCI). As per the Article 158 of the Constitution “The province in which a well-head of natural gas is situated shall have precedence over other parts of Pakistan in meeting the requirements from that well-head, subject to the commitments and obligations as on the commencing day.”

Similarly, Article 172(3) states that “Subject to the existing commitments and obligations, mineral oil and natural gas within the province or the territorial waters adjacent thereto shall vest jointly and equally in that province and the Federal Government”.

According to the provincial interpretation it means that both the Federal government and provincial government will share the administrative matters related to oil and gas sector.

According the Sindh’s stand Articles 158 and 172(3) is vague and it needs interpretation.

There is also demand for the implementation of Article 154 of the Constitution as Sindh, KP and Balochistan governments have expressed their reservations over its implementation.

After the 18th Constitutional Amendment Act, Article 154 (1) clearly states the functions and rules of procedure of the CCI.

The provinces are of the view that the Council should formulate and regulate the policies relating to the matters in Part II of the Federal Legislative List and shall exercise the supervision and control over the related institutions, oil & gas and electricity are under Section 2&4 of the Part II of the Federal Legislative and ,therefore, it comes under CCI domain.

The provinces blame the Federal government for making important decisions regarding oil and gas sector through the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet and Cabinet Committee on Energy (CCOE).

After the 18th Amendment of Article 154 reads “The Council shall formulate and regulate policies in relation to matters in Part II of the Federal Legislative List and shall exercise supervision and control over related institutions.”

Although these matters were on the agenda of the several CCI’s meetings but,  due to time constraints/postponement,  the matters were not discussed on the CCI forum.

The matter was also on the agenda of the 32nd meeting of the CCI, held under the Chairmanship of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, however, it was decided that instead of deliberating it in CCI, the matter should be send to IPCC.

“It was decided that the matter will be first discussed in the IPCC and after consensus it will be forwarded to the CCI for final approval,” the official said.