North West Frontier Province seeks greater autonomy

June 22nd, 2008 - 2:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, June 22 (IANS) Pakistan’s restive North West Frontier Province (NWFP) has sought greater autonomy by abolishing the constitution’s concurrent list that limits its legislative powers. The demand was contained in a bipartisan resolution the NWFP assembly unanimously passed Saturday.

The concurrent list comprises 47 subjects. With the 67 subjects on the federal list, this gives the provinces very little leeway on what they can legislate on.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani, while addressing the Balochistan cabinet in Quetta last month, had said the concurrent list would be removed from the constitution within one year as the government was committed to protecting the rights of the provinces.

Even so, analysts here noted that the NWFP demand, coupled with the emotional outburst Saturday of Senate deputy chairman Muhammad Jamali warning of “another dismemberment” of Pakistan if his Balochistan province was not given adequate development funds should make the ruling establish here sit up.

This is all the more so as the NWFP demand was spearheaded by the Awami National Party (ANP) that heads the ruling coalition and which is a junior partner in the federal government.

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) that heads the federal ruling coalition is a junior partner in the NWFP coalition

Jamali’s anguish prompted Gillani to immediately release Rs.3 million for the province from his discretionary funds.

Moving the autonomy resolution in the NWFP assembly Saturday, Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain complained the ANP “had been struggling for provincial rights since long and it was assured in 1973 that the concurrent list would be abolished after 10 years but that was never done”, The News said Sunday.

Through another resolution moved by Hussain, the assembly noted that Punjab had been using NWFP water through apportionment accord signed in 1991 and should be paid royalty for this.

Through a third resolution Hussain moved, the house demanded the Punjab government immediately lift the ban on the inter-provincial movement of wheat and ensure equal prices of flour in the country - like in the case of petrol and diesel - “so that the sense of deprivation among other provinces could be removed”, The News said.

The house supported all the three resolutions with loud ‘ayes’ when the speaker Karamatullah Chagharmati put them to voice vote.

Chagharmati belongs to the PPP and was elected unanimously after an understanding struck between his party, the ANP and all other parties in the assembly.

Much of the NWFP’s northern areas like the Swat Valley and South Waziristan that borders Afghanistan are home to militant groups like the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

The federal government is negotiating with some of these groups, including one led by tribal chieftain Baitullah Mehsud, who heads the local Taliban, to restore peace in the area.

The US has expressed its unhappiness over the peace talks, saying Pakistan is giving away too much in return for too little.

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