ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: Minister for Law and Justice Zahid Hamid Wednesday informed the Senate that there was nothing out of ordinary in shifting Regulatory Authorities to their line ministries from the Cabinet Division.
Arguing on the points made by Chairman Senate Mian Raza Rabbani and other members on shifting Regulatory Authorities, the minister said, under the memorandum of December 19, only administrative control of these authorities had been shifted to line ministries and it was discretion of the Prime Minister.
“The memorandum was issued according to Rules of Business of the federal government. It had been happening time and again in the past and there is nothing out of ordinary in this memorandum,” he explained.
The minister talked of authorities one by one and said, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority was earlier working with Ministry of Science and Technology but was given under the Cabinet Division on October 15, 2002 through an order of the Chief Executive.
He said National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) was set up in 1995 and had been working under Water and Power Ministry but was transferred to Law and Justice division in 1998 from where it was transferred to cabinet division.
Similarly, he said, Frequency Allocation Board and Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) had respectively been working with Science and Technology and Finance Divisions respectively.
Talking of Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), he said, this authority was frequently shifted from Ministry Information to Cabinet division and then from there back to Ministry of Information.
“Therefore, I must say that there is nothing out of ordinary and nothing has been changed in act as original,” he said and also quoted some other authorities like Private Educational Institutions Regulatory Authority, Drugs Regulatory Authority, Pakistan Quality Control Authority and Intellectual Property Organization that were also working under the line ministries.
He said had there been involved any policy matters in this issue, the government might have no objection on taking it up at the Council of Common Interests (CCI).
“It is purely a routine matter. This notification does not affect independence and autonomy of these authorities. These authorities were shifted in between divisions in the past also,” he added.
He also explained that had the government desired to influence these authorities, it could easily be done at the Cabinet Division as well.
Therefore, issuance of this memorandum never meant to influence these authorities.
The matter was originally raised by Chairman Senate Raza Rabbani on Tuesday when he had sought explanation from the government on this issue.
Commenting during Wednesday’s session the Chairman said, the CCI was by passed in this matter as he also mentioned that earlier the matter was on the CCI agenda but after the objection by KP and Sindh governments, it was removed from agenda.
He also quoted certain points from Rules of Business and other legal provisions seeking more clarification on the issue from the government and said, how could these authorities perform independently when those have been placed under the concerned ministries.
On this the minister said, whether these authorities remain under the Cabinet division or the line ministries, supervision of these authorities by the CCI remains there.
Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan and other Senators also spoke on the matter and described it as an ill will of the government to use these organizations for their personal purposes.
Chaudhry Aitzaz said, the authorities have been placed under the same against whom they were appointed as regulators for protection of the consumers’ rights.
Other Senators who spoke on the issue included Sehar kamran, Azam Swati, Sassi Palejo, Farhatullah Babar, Saleem Mandviwala, Barrister Saif, Taj Haider, Lt Gen ® Abdul Qayyum, Dr Jehanzeb Jamaldeeni, Lt Gen ® Salahuddin Tirmizi and Mushahidullah Khan.
The Senators from the opposition described it as a move aimed at gaining certain motives and demanded to send the matter to Standing Committee concerned. They also opined that actually it was the matter of NEPRA and urged that importance of CCI should not be overlooked.
While the treasury members described it as a move to improve performance of these institutions and said, it should be taken in positive spirit as these authorities will now work under line ministries instead of direct control of the Prime Minister.