By: G Abbas
Fast eroding unity amongst provinces, regions and sub regions of Pakistan is an axiomatic truth of the day. Intolerance among people and administrative regions is evidently prevailing faster than ever before. Virtues of religion and culture are being averted and ideology of Pakistan is fast becoming strange to many. Ever since creation of Pakistan there has hardly been a worthwhile spell of political stability and conducive conditions for good governance. If at all some periods in the history have been fruitful for making progress in some or in most of the national spheres, controversies marred these with questions regarding legitimacy of the then rulers. Good governance has always been a foreign phrase in Pakistan as far as performance of the current and that of the past Governments is concerned. Most evident political activity is nothing but the tug of war merely to re-cycle the concentration of powers from one set of wielders to another. The constitution of Pakistan has been like a punching bag for manipulation to acquire desired and unlimited authority. Each time the manipulation is done in the name of constitutional reforms, the beneficiary wielders go trumpeting their success of bagging powers as if it was a life saving favor for the people. Unfortunately no such exercise has ever made any positive impact on the lives of masses. Transforming ethics and priorities in lives of our people have branded the noble work, by the able people, of leading the nation to merely a power grabbing game. This game has gone from bad to worse with passage of time. The players seem to be losing touch with decency of norms and indulging in highly personalized agendas. Current constitutional reforms under 18th amendment clearly show an ugly face of our politics. Some individuals and parties have blindly gone in to bargains and compromises for nothing but personal gains, which does not enjoy public support at all. This sort of politics has inculcated intolerance in society and myopic approach to problems. Some politicians found it more expedient to raise voice in favor of regional autonomy or rights to exploit public sentiments. Slowly it became a fashion in this country to oppose any or all national propositions under the cover of protection of the regional rights. This trend has been going on for quite some time, which slowly over sensitized the issue of provincial autonomy. In fact this issue became synonymous with “sense of deprivation” through continued exploitation. In this process some projects of national importance have also fallen prey to narrow vision of political segments under influence of vested interests.
Demand by some immature political circles for Provincial autonomy has brought Pakistan to a flash point, which has not been boldly taken cognizance of. Some radical elements have created hype against relatively bigger province(s), particularly Punjab. The sore feelings indicate eroding confidence between various segments of people as well as the regions. Some people have appeared on national media to almost openly demand “independence” of their province. Whereas this sort of attitude should have been condemned openly to counter the attempts against solidarity of the country, our politicians’ adhered to traditional mudslinging on past regimes and to absolve themselves of any fault as if they were not part of the past. While they are sprouting hatred for their vested interests, what shall they reap?
Our beloved country is unfortunately being ruled, at federal as well as provincial levels, by political parties categorized by “family dynasty”. They do not consider it appropriate to hold elections within their own parties. Such parties neither consider opinion of their members worthwhile nor the need of democratic norms. These parties have shown clear disregard for the opinion of people of Pakistan too. This act is evident from the passing of 18th amendment recently. Some parties with vested interests played a game of give and take to include some controversial amendments in the Constitution. As mentioned above, our highly polarized society could not sustain with results of 18th amendment and the nation witnessed forceful public demonstration against changing name of NWFP to PKP. These demonstrations left behind a sad tale of bloodshed of innocent martyrs, which will go a long way in the memory of people. Had the political parties and their protagonists involved in controversial amendments acted sanely and respected public sentiments, results could have been different. Unfortunately it added further to already existing polarization in the country. Besides creating a demand for “Hazara Province” it led to renewed demands for Bahawalpur, Siraiki and Malakand provinces. Wishes of some people and political groups regarding status of Karachi are also not hidden. Pashto speaking leaders of Baluchistan have been demanding a separate identity since long. These demands coupled with critical situation in Baluchistan are making the situation grim and hopeless for those who understand the implications. It is time to think about permanent solution of growing linguistic and regional divide or be ready to face the consequences. One way is to let the people go on with their demands and ultimately reach a point of no return and then bowing to all fair and unfair demands. The other way is to justly consider all these demands for provincial autonomy to adopt a proactive and futuristic approach. Provincial autonomy, feelings of deprivation in some regions/provinces and antagonism of provinces have led us to a flash point where it is necessary to act before it’s too late. Civil society, media, intelligentsia and institutions must all ponder upon the issue seriously enough to reach the best suited decisions for the people of Pakistan. Consideration of creating new administrative entities may address many such issues, if the nation wakes up to this challenge.
This very idea of reconsidering provincial boundaries and/or addition of new provinces is neither new nor has been unnoticed in the past. Although such an idea was perceived to be against national interests by some people in the past, still it was floated at different times. It however remained at the back burner due to ever changing circumstances. Pakistan was almost an infant state when first voice was raised on language basis. Such voices never died down for good and history has recorded a chain of events in this regard. Language riots in Sindh have been sadly marked with blood stains of innocent people. It has gone on and we had to unfortunately see another day of bloodshed at Abbotabad recently. The Hazara episode is clear manifestation of public sentiment, charged with lingual zeal. Mr. Jamil Nishtar was one of the pioneers to suggest establishment of 18 provinces in Pakistan. Justice Tanzeel ur Rehman commission was formed during Zia ul Haq regime to examine the issue for making suitable recommendations regarding establishment of new provinces. This commission suggested forming of 22 provinces. In the current scenario some highly respected writers and columnists have suggested to form provinces on the basis of divisions. This idea may result in about 14 provinces on the basis of divisions as up to 1970 and 27 provinces on the basis of current number of divisions. The common logic behind all these ideas has been elimination of the menace of linguistic divide and regionalism.
Merger and amalgamation of administrative units or creating new provinces is not an unusual phenomenon anywhere in the world. Changing requirement of people, pressure of increasing population, geographical compulsions and newly developing outlook towards governance are natural factors of change. India was also faced with such challenges in as early as 1952. Consequently Govt. of India established State Reorganization Commission under chairmanship of Hon Fazal Ali in 1953. This commission issued a comprehensive report, which is known as SRC Report 1955. This report laid down parameters for creation of new provinces and made it administratively easy for the government to consider and establish new provinces as and when required. India has doubled the number of provinces so far and several proposals are under consideration presently too. History of Pakistan is also full of demands for new provinces but the issue has never been taken up seriously and methodically by any government. We have a tendency of delaying things and maintaining status qua rather than facing the ground realities. As a result ideology of Pakistan, creation of this country on the basis of Islam and national unity are all being undermined today by the parochial sentiments. Consideration of new provinces may well be a good approach to counter the undesirable trends leading to decelerating national growth and development. Most people, if not all, will agree that we need to eliminate presently flourishing curse of polarization in Pakistan, which is eroding tolerance and good will between people and the provinces. Creation of provinces based on administrative grounds is important firstly to finish the mistrust between people and secondly to ensure that no one province may be in position to exploit others in any way. This idea is being presented herein for consideration, comments and further refining it in the best national interest.
The following considerations have been made while suggesting establishment of different provinces, in the given conditions of Pakistan:
a. No single province should be able to dominate other provinces through overwhelming numerical strength in Parliament.
b. To ensure just and equitable distribution and control over resources.
c. Province should be resourceful enough to sustain in carrying out administration.
d. People must be provided with easy access and approach to justice, health, education and their administrative requirements.
e. Promotion of National unity and harmonious society. Demarcation should not be made merely on linguistic basis.
The Proposed provinces, enunciated hereunder, are being suggested for national debate and input by everyone in Pakistan while keeping in view land mass, population and natural geographical features around. Suggested new demarcation is based on 15 provinces and Islamabad Capital Territory. Since Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltastan are enjoying “Special Status”, their current arrangement has not been considered in this proposal or further discussed for time being.
The names for proposed provinces have just been suggested for the purpose of identification and should remain subject to approval by the people of Pakistan in general and that of people of respective regions in particular. In fact the districts and/or territories suggested to be included in any one province should also be nationwide debated for a broad base consensus before any final decision. People of each district and/or territory should be consulted and convinced about new demarcations, which must play a positive role in development and livelihood of inhabitants. Similarly capital of each province should also be selected to suit administrative requirements of the government as well ease of people. The demarcation is suggested to be as following:
Islamabad Capital Territory: The limits are proposed to be within currently in vogue boundaries.
1. Peshawar: Districts of Peshawar, Nowshehra, Charsada, Mardan and Sawabi. It will also include Khyber and Mohmand agencies. Currently the area known as Peshawar Frontier Region will also form part of this province.
2. Dera Ismail Khan: Districts of Dera Ismail Khan, Bannu, Kohat, Tank, Laki Marwat, Karak, and Hangu. It will also include Kurram, Orakzai, South Wazirstan, North wazirstan agencies. Five frontier regions adjacent to tribal belt and this province will also form part of this entity.
3. Hazara: Districts of Abbotabad, Haripur, Mansehra, Batgram and Kohistan.
4. Swat: It will include Swat, Chitral, Lower Dir, Upper Dir, Malakand, Shangla and Buner. Bajaur agency will also form part of this province.
5. Quetta: It will include districts/region of Quetta, Qila Saifullah, Qila Abdulla, Zhob, Musakhel, Loralai, Ziarat, Pishin and Hernai.
6. Kalat: Districts of Kalat, Khuzdar, Sibi (less Hernai), Kohlu, Dera Bugti, Naseerabad, Jafarabad, Bolan, Jhal Magsi, Kharan, Chaghi, Noshki, Mastung and Barkhan.
7. Makran: Districts of Las Bela, Gawadar, Pangur, Kech and Awaran.
8. Rawalpindi: Districts of Rawalpindi, Attock, Jhelum, Ckakwal, Gujrat, Mandi Bahauddin, Khushab, Sargodha and Mianwali.
9. Faisalabad: Districts of Faisalabad, Toba Tek Singh, Jhang, Chiniot, Bhakkar, Sahiwal, Pakpattn and Okara.
10. Lahore: Districts of Lahore, Sheikhupura, Kasur, Gujranwala, Sialkot, Narowal, Hafizabad and Nankna Sahib.
11. Multan: Districts of Multan, Muzafargarh, Dera Ghazi Khan, Rajanpur, Lodhran, Vehari, Khanewal and Layyah.
12. Bahawalpur: Districts of Bahawalnagar, Bahawalpur and Rahim Yar Khan.
13. Hyderabad: Districts of Hyderabad, Thatta, Jamshoro, Matiari, Mirpur Khas, Nawab Shah, Naushehro Feroz, Sanghar, Tando Allah Yar, Tando Muhammad Khan, Umerkot, Tharparker and Badin.
14. Sukkar: Districts of Sukkar, Ghotki, Kashmore, Jacobabad, Larkana, Qambar-Shahdadkot, Shikarpur, Khairpur and Dadu.
15. Karachi: All districts of Karachi and Malir.
Arguments for and against the proposed provinces will always be there and that is what must happen during a healthy debate. Final decision may only be taken when majority of the people concerned are on board. Amongst other factors taken in to account for making this suggestion are history and culture of the region and demands of people raised from time to time. Voices in favor of reviving former states of Bahawalpur and Kalat as provinces were echoed long ago and have been repeated many times. Demand for Siraiki province was always there and supported by several nationalist parties.
It may never be possible to carry out perfect demarcation of federal entities to achieve an absolute evenness. However most of the suggested provinces will have a good ratio between the population and resources of each province. The suggested demarcation and creation of new provinces is going to institute long desired but denied sense of participation in managing the affairs of State by common local people. It will certainly improve governance and delivery of service to people. This will however be possible only if no new restrictions or conditions are applied and provinces are allowed to organize and work in accordance with their rights, privileges and parameters accrued from the constitution of Pakistan. Most of the problems of common man relating to health, education, justice and administrative issues will come within easy and manageable reach. The suggested provinces are shown with provincial and district boundaries in the annexed map of Pakistan. Some districts may have to be divided/adjusted in order to conform to the local conditions and/or administrative constraints subject to willingness of the people.
PROPOSED DEMARKATION OF PROVINCES
It has been assumed that current allocation of National Assembly seats for each district/territory will automatically be applicable to the new/suggested province in which respective district(s) are included. This arrangement will bring in much desired even influence of provinces in national affairs and decision making.
It may be noted that National Assembly seats allocated to FATA have been included in suggested provinces to which respective territory(s) will join.
|CURRENT NUMBER OF SEATS IN NATIONAL ASSEMBLY.|
|Province / Area||General Seats||Seats reserved for||Total|
PROPOSED NATIONAL ASSEMBLY SEATS BASED ON CURRENT DELIMITATION
|Province / Area||General Seats (Proposed)||
|NUMBER of DISTRICTS|
Most of the people in Pakistan consider “senate” as merely a debating forum without any meaningful contribution towards legislation and effective role in check and balance system. New generation of Pakistan is far from conceding to the so called traditions borrowed or adopted from British legacy which more or less are like sustaining with “Crown” as merely a symbol of power. A young citizen of Pakistan does not subscribe to the idea of having a President, many Governors and institution like Senate without making a meaningful contribution towards national affairs. It is always a strange site to see the President of Pakistan absent from all national ceremonies held on Pakistan Day (23rd March). Isn’t President of the country or a Governor of a province the symbol of unity that day? All these persons and institutions are heavy toll on national exchequer unless a positive contribution is envisaged for them. Senate is the most vital link between federal units. The real role of this institution is attaining a balance among the federating units and ensuring check and balance. The general seats should preferably be filled through direct election so that an effective role for this institution becomes more natural. A suggested composition of Senate is shown in table hereunder. A careful relation has been considered between the current number of seats in National Assembly by relatively smaller provinces and requirement of rotation of members.
|CURRENT NUMBER OF SEATS IN SENATE|
|Province / Area||General Seats||Seats reserved for||Total|
|Women||Technocrats and Ulema|
PROPOSED COMPOSITION OF SENATE
|Province / Area||General Seats||Women||Technocrats||Minorities|
Numbers of eminent political leaders and writers have made proposals for new provinces in different ways. Some of them have pointed out about heavy cost factor for increased number of provinces. On the face of it, such an assumption may seem convincing. In fact it is not an overriding problem. New provinces will not add any further cost as far as National Parliament is concerned. Number of all provincial assembly seats in 15 provinces will remain the same as that of 4 provinces. Seats will remain in accordance with ratio of population as laid down by Election Commission of Pakistan. Provincial Assemblies with their reduced strength can easily be accommodated in the in the existing infrastructure and/or in current local government buildings. Number of ministers for small provinces may remain between 4 to 6. Total number of ministers in all 15 provinces may well be less than current number of ministers in 4 provinces. The work load and expenses of the cabinet will be far less in small provinces in terms of work load and travelling etc. Smaller provinces will afford substantial savings to common man and the State in terms of economy of time, travelling and resource employment. Logistic pressure on 4 cities will be distributed to 15. Net calculations will show national savings and big relief for masses.
Another very pertinent point has been raised by a respected columnist in Daily Nawai-e-Waqt that how can so many provinces reach a consensus, if need be. The history reveals that some provinces unduly opposed projects of national importance based on frivolous arguments and without being directly affected. The writer clearly hinted at Kalabagh Dam proposal where some provinces had no plausible reasons yet whemently opposed it. This state of affair and attitudes were one way or the other a result of dominance of Punjab in terms of population and numerical strength in parliament. In case of we have relatively smaller provinces such feelings can be eliminated as the smaller provinces become dependent on each other and their interests become common. Federal institutions have inbuilt mechanism of keeping intra province check and balance as well as between state and the provinces, which must be given a chance to come in effective.
Whereas requirement of creating new provinces has come alive in Pakistan but most of the demands from politically motivated circles are based on ethno-lingual considerations with exception of PML (likeminded) who have considered revisiting of provincial boundaries nationwide. We must put an end to this burgeoning menace and act rationally keeping paradigmatic relation with administrative reforms and requirements only. Talking about new provinces may not fit in to the ambience of prevalent geo-political situation but the imperatives of divide inculcated through improvident thinking of some leaders has brought the country to a point where it is incumbent on all of us to act. The dynamics of social and political process determines its own course whether or not we like it. Evolution of new administrative units with revised rationale is but natural process. Europe learnt it hard way after the world war and had to redraw the boundaries. Mr. Gorbachov of Russia recognized the impending human disaster and made timely move to avoid by giving required autonomy to the states under Russian control. We have brought Pakistan, with our inaptness, to a position which demands timely act to put an end to highly undesirable erosion of our national unity. A courageous approach studded with statesmanship is required to implement new ideas. We shall be failed smug if we do not wake up to realities of life and remain absorbed in our fancied feel-good images.
Writer is a freelance political and strategic analysit.Email: email@example.com