Balochistan’s NFC Fiasco

Adnan Aamir
On May 12, the president of Pakistan officially constituted the 10th National Finance Commission (NFC). This NFC will deliberate and decide on a formula to share resources between the center and the provinces for the next five years. The biggest surprise in the notification of the NFC was the name of Javed Jabbar as a non-statutory member from Balochistan.
In NFC, every province can send two members; the finance minister is the statutory member and a technical expert is nominated as a non-statutory member. Balochistan’s chief minister (CM) surprised everyone by nominating former senator Javed Jabbar as the non-statutory member from Balochistan. His nomination triggered a wave of protest and condemnation against the Balochistan government.
Member of National Assembly Aslam Bhootani challenged the nomination of Javed Jabbar in Balochistan High Court. Opposition in the Balochistan Assembly also rejected this nomination.
The main criticism against Javed Jabbar’s appointment was that he is not from Balochistan. This was not a logical position taken by the opposition because an expert for NFC can be appointed from anywhere in the country. Having said this, the strong case against Javed Jabbar’s nomination was based on his lack of expertise in economics and finance.

In the wake of mounting criticism, Javed Jabbar finally resigned on May 30. CM Jam Kamal expressed his sadness over the resignation

Jabbar is a respectable name in Pakistan. He has served as a federal minister and senator. He writes and speaks well and is successfully running an advertising agency. However, critics claim that he has no expertise and experience of working in the finance and economic sector. In fact, when BBC Urdu asked him about his qualifications for this position, he said that he had made many documentaries on Balochistan and worked with the social development sector in the province. That is hardly a qualification which can be used to justify his appointment for the extremely important role of a non-statutory member of Balochistan. Hence, he could not have been effective in pleading the case of Balochistan at 10th NFC.
Moreover, a non-statutory member is supposed to guide the provincial finance department in building a case for the province for the 10th NFC. When Javed Jabbar will take up the role of non-statutory member, it will be the other way round. “The provincial finance department would have to guide Javed Jabbar on what is NFC and how can Balochistan plead an effective case,” said an official of the government of Balochistan on condition of anonymity. He added that this completely defeats the purpose of having a technical expert in NFC to represent the provinces.
The gamble which CM Balochistan took with Javed Jabbar was not only about one unfair appointment but a lot was at stake for Balochistan, which could have been lost. The 7th NFC was approved in 2010 and the share of Balochistan in the federal divisible pool was increased from 5.11 percent to 9.09 percent. For the last 10 years, Balochistan is receiving additional funds thanks to the non-statutory member of Balochistan in 7th NFC, who pleaded a good case. With a non-expert in charge of its financial fate, Balochistan could have got an unfavorable share in NFC, due to a non-expert pleading its case.
Furthermore, Balochistan’s non-statutory member in 9th NFC was former Finance Secretary Mehfooz Ali Khan. He was instrumental during the 7th NFC meetings as well. During the 9th NFC, he built a case for an increase in the share of Balochistan based on its high poverty and landmass among other factors. He was also arguing for allowing provinces to enter into loan agreements with foreign lending institutions without the involvement of the federal government. In this way, provinces can get loans at better and more competitive interest rates. The official in the government of Balochistan claimed that all of this good work will be lost when Javed Jabbar replaces Mehfooz Ali Khan in 10th NFC because these matters are beyond the expertise of the former.
Liaquat Shahwani, the spokesperson of the Balochistan government, said it was the prerogative of the provincial government to nominate Javed Jabbar for the National Finance Commission (NFC). “The government will take the opposition in confidence regarding the measures taken against coronavirus,” he told media in a press conference.
In the wake of mounting criticism, Javed Jabbar finally resigned on May 30. Jam Kamal expressed his sadness over the resignation. He tweeted that some self-centered people spread disinformation about Jabbar which led to the resignation.
It is pertinent to mention here the cause of the problem which led to a nightmare situation for Balochistan. Experts claim that the root cause is the style of governance of CM Balochistan himself.
Kamal has been ruling Balochistan for the last 21 months and his government is not known for good governance. He has admitted on national television to managing more than 70 WhatsApp groups for running the government. His critics rightly called his approach ‘WhatsApp Style of Governance.’ Long hours of unproductive meetings and not choosing the right person for the job are the hallmarks of his style.
CM Kamal is single-handedly holding 15 ministries, including the all-important health ministry during the COVID-19 pandemic. He was criticized for not appointing a full-time health minister. So in response, he appointed a parliamentary secretary for health. In the case of the appointment of the non-statutory member, the provincial finance department sent names of several economic and financial experts to the CM for nomination. Instead, he nominated Javed Jabbar out of the blue. Hence, this important decision became controversial due to the inconsiderate decision-making approach of CM.
This article was originally published in The Friday Times
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