The Council of Common Interests (CCI) is a constitutional body in Pakistan and yet it has no permanent secretariat. Mr. Raza Rabbani, Senate Chairman, pointed out that the position of the CCI was to never be thought of as beneath that of the federal cabinet and requested that the government seriously consider establishing a permanent secretariat of the body even if it was to be on the same pattern as that of the Cabinet Division.
Strangely enough the Minister of Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC), Mr. Riaz Hussain Pirzada was talking about the CCI annual report on the year 2015-2016. This prompted Mr. Raza Rabbani to comment on the fact that the Ministry of IPC and CCI cannot co-exist as had been previously thought.
Consultations between the Cabinet Division and the Ministry of IPC led to the conclusion that there should be the establishment of a CCI-IPC secretariat and that it only required the approval of the prime minister which was likely to be given at the next cabinet meeting.
Under the terms of the constitution, the CCI is required to hold one meeting in every quarter but even Mr. Pirzada conceded on this fact that it was not possible. He then gave this responsibility to the provincial governments when he said that they had not sent the agenda.
However, countering this statement, Mr. Rabbani stated that it was the duty of the federal government to the set the agenda and the provincial governments were merely responsible for implementing it. He also said that the 18th Amendment to the Constitution made it legal and imperative for the then prime minister to chair the meetings of the CCI, rather than just any federal minister.
The Constitution also says in Article 154 (3) that the council must meet at least once in 30 days and have a permanent secretariat.
The Constitution also directs the council under Article 154 (1) that its purpose its to form and regulate policies relating to matters in part-II of the federal legislative list and practice supervision and control over all related institutions. Thus the CCI has a large agenda which cannot be taken care of properly by a separate ministry which has its own duties. The CCI is being restricted in how much it can do because it has no permanent secretariat.
Many political leaders have seen this, too, and have protested about it. One example is the Pakistan Peoples Party’s parliamentary leader Senator Taj Haider who also participated in the discussion of the CCI annual report blamed the government for deliberately destroying the CCI which as a result was not able to function in the way that the Constitution had proposed.
The CCI having met only twice last year could not make decisions and so the cabinet had to do that job. This is in complete violation of the orders of the Constitution.
Mushahid Hussain Sayed of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid group proposed that timelines should be set up for the proper implementation of the decisions that the CCI comes to. He further criticized the government over its control of the way the CCI proceeds with things and emphasized that the secrecy should come to an end now.