A Country of 106 Provinces

Original File Source: Wikipedia

This is not a satirical post.

These days, everybody wants their own province in Pakistan. And why not? Everyone wants to have a say. It is perfectly democratic and with the introduction and passage of the 18th Amendment to the 1973 Constitution, the existing Pakistani provinces are enjoying quite a bit of “control” over things. Nevertheless, a particular provision in that amendment about a rather obnoxious name of a particular province has also triggered a (not much of a) debate over the creation of a new province, joining the longstanding demand of a new province in the Southern Punjab. Even better.

While the legislature of Pakistan is shortly expected to propose recommendations for the creation of new provinces, consensus on the issue, as with most issues in Pakistan, has not been reached. Some people are wondering, and so is my observation,  why people in Pakistan have to think with such an ethnic-centered approach. Let us not consider it a moral question or even a matter of principle, because the rationale for creating new provinces is better administration, the rights of people in certain parts of the country, decentralization and the delegation of authority to smaller administrative units. What does that have to do with ethnic groups?

This actually turns the attention of an observer to a rather harsh reality. Pakistan has been very severely ethnically polarized. Pakistan is actually a state with several belligerent ethnic nations who would do whatever is in their power to tear each other apart. Though thankfully, most of them do not have the means to do so, other than politics. Due to the irregular distribution of power and a highly centralized autocratic government in the country over many decades, these feelings have grown even worse. But getting back to the issue of the new provinces.

The questions to ask are these.

Will Pakistan find more reasons to be divided with the new provinces or will that prove useful to the unity of the state?

Will creating new provinces cut down costs?

The answer to the first question is important but no one really knows it. The second question can only be answered with an emphatic no. With additional governors, chief ministers, cabinets and God knows what, costs are only bound to rise with the current unreformed parliamentary system, which can be a great blow to the state with its economy on a lifeline and with a deficit in budget and declining current account balance and growth rate.

However, I have a very good solution to both the problems of conflict between different ethnic groups in the country and to the increasing costs without sacrificing decentralization and the delegation of power to smaller administrative units, away from an autocratic center. Each district of Pakistan should be declared a province, or call it a district if you will. What this apparently insane idea means is that the districts should be delegated their own budget with their own governors and the privileges of these officials should be no greater than that of the mayor of a city or whosoever is considered the head of the local legislature.

A Country of 106 Provinces.

It is an unorthodox idea, particularly to those who blindly believe in Westminster Parliamentary System of the Commonwealth of Nations, but don’t tell me that it is not workable.

If taking such measures is unnecessary for the prevalence of goodwill in the country and for reducing ethnic polarization, then so are the provisions taken in the constitutional amendments in the recent years that promote decentralization.

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