The Ministry of Finance (MoF) has termed SOPs issued by the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and GB (KA&GB) for the execution of projects under the federal Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) as an interference in affairs of the two regional governments.
The matter was scrutinised after both the governments of Gilgit Baltistan (GB) and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) expressed concerned about a long list issued earlier in April this year.
According to sources, the MoF, in its views shared with the Prime Minister office, Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives and other stakeholders concerned, has made it clear that the KA&GB ministry has a limited role under the law.
As per Rules of Business, 1973, the federal government only allows the ministry the role of processing cases in the Central Development Working Party (CDWP) and Executive Committee of National Economic Council (ECNEC) and coordination between the center and regional governments.
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However, the KA&GB ministry had issued SOPs which drastically curtailed powers of the regional governments, especially GB, to execute development projects. Besides creating hurdles in the execution of development projects, the SOPs also hindered financial transactions for AJK and GB.
While discussing the issue in a recent meeting held at PM House, Prime Minister Imran Khan had sought views of the MoF for resolution of the issue.
According to an official statement issued after the meeting, the premier asked the authorities concerned to clear all legal and procedural hiccups to facilitate the people of GB who have to travel long distances to reach Islamabad for getting their issues resolved.
“However, despite all other ministries showing favor of authorising AJK and GB to execute development projects and financial transactions, the KA&GB ministry was reluctant to accept the two governments’ financial autonomy as it meant losing the power to supervise the them,” sources said.
In the letter to the PM’s Office, the MoF has said that since employees of AJK and GB are not federal government employees and the KA&GB division has no control over those employees, the ministry is not competent to issue instructions to any institution under the regional governments.
As per the MoF, the SoPs issued by secretary KA&GB would ultimately create administrative problems, besides putting provincial employees in an awkward position when instructions are issued from different quarters.
It may be mentioned here that fund releases of the federal PSDP to AJK were already being made directly from the finance division, which takes hardly a week. However, the same procedure has yet to be made possible for GB. The GB government had demanded an extension of the same system to its government in order to ensure fast implementation on development projects in the area.
According to an official privy to the matter, the deputy chairman Planning Commission, during a meeting on the development plan of GB last month, had also agreed to make releases to GB directly from the finance division instead of making the payments through the KA&GB ministry, which takes over 40 days to fulfill formalities.
It is worth mentioning here that as per the SOPs issued by the Ministry KA&GB on April 6, all project directors are required to approach it directly without involving respective departments under the GB governments.
“The mandate in the affairs of PSDP projects will vest in the ministry, and no other authority without the approval of secretary KA&GB shall perform the same,” the order read, further stating: “the opening bids for award of contract/consultancy shall be carried out in the ministry, or outside of ministry with prior approval of secretary KA&GB.”
The development had raised questions over the intentions of federal government that has repeatedly claimed of working on granting provincial status to GB through a constitutional amendment.
The letter has over a dozen points that renders the regional government ineffective with regard to PSDP projects being executed in GB.
It is pertinent to mention here that the incumbent government had announced a historic five year development package for GB earlier this year. Under the package Rs370 billion would be released for GB to carry out various development projects till FY26.