Executive summary & recommendations
During 2006, the attention of Pakistanis has been captured by a number of issues, like the disputed construction of various dams, discussions over the National Finance Commission (NFC) Award, the dispute over inter-provincial movement of wheat, the issue of royalties to provinces, the violence in Balochistan, Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Federally Administered Northern Areas. While a number of talk shows, columns and discussion forums have focused on each one of these problems, perhaps not enough has been said about the common thread that runs between all these issues. This common thread is: is the federal system of government alive and well in Pakistan, as laid down in the 1973 Constitution?
Citizens would bear witness that the last few years have been dominated by the NFC Award talks. Each year, the citizens are told that the talks between the Centre and federating units failed and thus the federal budget of that year would be prepared using the now-defunct Award. This has been the practice for a number of years now. Talks over the formula used for distribution of resources between the federating units and the Centre were again taken up in 2005, but did not bear fruit. However, what was different in this financial year is that during the Presidential speech on January 17, 2006, the President put an end to this discussion by announcing that the provincial share will be increased by one percent each year during the next five years. Some political analysts have claimed that it was unconstitutional and the President, under Clause 6 and 7 of Article 160 of the Constitution, can only amend the Award after it is announced and not announce it himself during a televised speech. Leaving aside this debate, the fact is that the NFC Award was a serious bone of contention which has temporarily (or permanently?) been resolved and at least for the next financial year, it will serve as the basis for preparing budgets. This is definitely welcome news but the question remains: the dispute of the NFC Award and the way it was addressed, does it fare well for the question of effective federalism in Pakistan?
The year 2006 has also been dominated by the question of scarce water resources and the question of building dams. The whole debate of the dams construction ,to us at Liberal Forum Pakistan , has an important lesson. How do we in the Federation of Pakistan communicate amongst the federating units?
In any federation of the world, disagreements over the distribution and allocation of resources arise. However, if these disputes are allowed to linger on for extended periods of time, they are internalised into the people’s psyche. This has occurred in Pakistan and that is why a visitor to Balochistan hears statements like, “We are the umpteenth province of a Third World Country; our fate can never change.” Punjab is referred to as the ‘big older brother’ in NWFP and Sindh and other provinces appear to be jealous of the progress in Punjab. It is not surprising that such thoughts have been internalized in people’s psyche as the federating units other than Punjab are still referred to as chotai soobay, i.e. smaller provinces, provincial autonomy is not granted as laid down in the 1973 Constitution, development in provinces is carried out in a way that reinforces alienation (Gwadar being a case in point) and the Concurrent List still exists . So, the question is :How does the federal system in Pakistan fare?
The violence in Balochistan plagues the mind of every Pakistani citizen. Regardless of the fact that there is a military action or targeted action on ‘miscreants’, the fact is that there is significant unrest in some parts of Balochistan. One of the causes for violence is that the local population feels that it has been left out of the development loop. The Gwadar issue, according to the locals, is only the latest in a long list of examples of how Balochistan has been exploited. Limited access of gas in Dera Bugti, the Balochistan district that supplies gas to the rest of the country, is another issue that causes genuine heartburn. Military means is no means. Instead political negotiation is key for demanding an effective federal system. Thus the question is: how effective is the relationship between the Centre and the federating units, if guns are the preferred language of choice by both sides?
The issue also of the federally administered areas, particularly the Federally Administered Northern Areas is an important one. There exists in the area an environment of tension as violence can erupt at any minute. The fact of the matter is that the Northern Areas have been governed by an Islamabad-based remote control, which is an unsuitable arrangement to say the least. Presently, the Northern Areas have an Islamabad-based Chief Executive, that is the Minister for Kashmir and Northern Areas, and the constitutional rights of the people of the area are usurped. The Northern Areas Legislative Council at best can be described as a congregation of well meaning individuals who cannot be termed as representatives of the people.
The denial of the constitutional rights to this area is particularly perturbing in light of the 1999 Supreme Court judgment. The Supreme Court of Pakistan clearly directed that the people of FANA must be given self-rule through their representatives and that an independent judiciary would protect the fundamental rights of the people. After the passage of six years, this decision has still not been implemented, raising serious questions in the minds of the people of the area.
To examine the issue closely , the Liberal Forum Pakistan, as a national citizens group, conducted dialogues on various aspects of federalism and provincial autonomy during the year. These dialogues, arranged by LFP district chapters, in collaboration with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, were attended by national , provincial and local political leadership as well as active citizens groups and the media. While the perspective at these dialogues varied and have been documented in this report, what is important to mention is this : At all of the dialogues, the consensus was that we need to re-examine the functioning of federalism in Pakistan.
The participants of the dialogues came up with various suggestions which are reflected in this report. However, not a single individual at the dialogues expressed a wish to ``opt out “of the federation. Based on this experience, we would like to point out that there is a need to openly engage with the federating units over the question of a viable federal system in Pakistan. Open dialogue with the units is one of the most important steps that can be taken. It is better than military means or labeling those who raise their voice for provincial autonomy as traitors.
Ø Constitutional amendment which will abolish the concurrent list is needed.
Ø The subjects of the concurrent list must be transferred to the provinces
Ø The Senate must be strengthened specifically in the ambit of financial powers
Ø Elections to the Senate must be direct.
Ø Non –Muslims Pakistanis must be given representation in the Senate
Ø The Council of Common Interest must meet regularly and function according to its mandate of facilitating inter- federation communication.
Ø Powers of the Central Government must be minimized in an attempt to devolve more and more powers to the provinces.
Ø The distribution criteria for the National Finance Commission Awards must be reviewed. It is proposed that a multi- criteria formula for Award division should be considered seriously.
Ø The southern belt of Punjab which is distinct in its culture and language must be recognized as such. Local citizens’ proposals such as a separate province should be seriously considered.
Ø The status of the Federally Administered Northern Areas must be reviewed. The people of the area must be allowed to elect their representatives and govern according to their aspirations.
Ø Attempts to use means such as force, intimidation, torture, extra judicial killings, disappearance etc to resolve conflicts stemming from genuine aspirations for provincial autonomy must be immediately stopped.
In the 60th year of its existence, Pakistan is still grappling with the question as to which kind of state it should be so that it can ensure its territorial integrity and national unity. This has been, indeed the case since it came into being in 1947. From those early days, one word that has remained constant, at least in theory, in all constitutional covenants and extra-constitutional arrangements is federalism. In letter Pakistan has always been a federation though in practice the concept has been transformed so much that its very difficult, if not altogether impossible, to call the current state of Pakistan as a federation and its constitutional scheme as federal.
Yet the survival of federalism as a constitutional concept and retention of federation as the basis of state-formation and nation building, no matter in how skewed a form, is an acknowledgement of the fact that a country as diverse as Pakistan can only be held together as a federation. That the only system available to the Pakistan state to exist and develop is a federal system has always been implicit in every constitutional semi-constitutional and ultra-constitutional arrangement written.However,in explicit practice Pakistan has been running away from federalism as much as it can.
The contrast between federal theory and its unitary application has led Pakistan, not just once, but a number of times, into situations where it faced genuine threats to its territorial integrity and national unity. Even if the past is allowed to be perceived as another country, the country’s present state of affairs is not much to the liking of those who want to see Pakistan exist and prosper with dignity in the days to come.
In Balochistan, area-wise the largest constituent part of the country, a six-decade long search for a sub-national identity and an unceasing struggle for political, economic and social rights, has now led to an armed struggle against the state and whatever symbols its presence in the province, including communication infrastructure and security forces. In much of the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, the conflict between the state and local people is as much about support for Afghan Taliban and Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda as it is about Pakhtoon identity which binds tribes across Pakistan-Afghanistan border in a relationship going far beyond in history than the modern existence of the two nation states. In Sindh, the rural-urban divide is not just linked with development, or lack of it, but with a clear and seemingly unbridgeable gap between the Mohajirs concentrated in cities and Sindhis dispersed all over the rural hinterland. In Punjab, the southern belt of the province believes that it is being left out in the cold.
In Northern Areas, constitutional ambiguity in relationship with the state of Pakistan and the central government’s remote-control approach has fueled a feeling of dissatisfaction. Lack of political opportunities in the areas has generated a sectarian divide which blights local politics, divides society and puts an end to development aggravating the vicious circle of sectarianism and its blood-thirsty manifestations.
This picture is further complicated by the sour state of relationship between the provinces. Punjab is viewed by all other provinces as the center’s blued eyed boy, trying to hog most of the national resources on the sheer strength of its numbers, in politics, in administration and in the state’s control apparatus. Conflicts on sharing river water variously pitch Northern Areas against North West Frontier Province, Punjab against North West Frontier Province, Punjab against Sindh and, with the proposed construction of Bhasha Dam in the upper reaches of the Indus River, North West Frontier Province (NWFP) against Sindh and even Balochistan.
The adversarial centre-province relationship is also manifested in how taxes are collected and divided among the provinces on the one hand and between the centre and the provinces on the others. The management of natural resources and other economic assets is an equally contentious area, symbolized not only by conflicts over the production and distribution of natural gas and hydro-electric power, but also in the recently reversed (and now appealed) privatization of Pakistan Steel Mills.
Should these imbalances mean that the crisis of the state in Pakistan has become so entrenched that no single measure can resolve it? The short answer is yes. But the long answer is that only a series of long term measures aimed at removing all anomalies in centre-province and province-province relationships can help Pakistan move ahead without having to carry the baggage of the past and without having to worry about territorial integrity and national unity.
The question of an effective federal system of government in Pakistan is an important one. Over the years, citizens have witnessed a number of crises such as the question of division of financial resources within the federating units, payment of royalties and disputes over water resources to name a few. While a lot of hue and cry has been raised over these contentious points; there has been a dearth of peaceful, meaningful and logical dialogue & discussion over the issues. The Liberal Forum Pakistan in collaboration with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation conducted through out the year federalism and provincial autonomy dialogues. These dialogues were conducted in the four provincial capitals , the Federal capital as well as selected district headquarters. The dialogues were conducted at Islamabad, Peshawar, Karachi, Lahore, Quetta,Sargodha,Multan,Rahimyar Khan,Pishin, Hyderabad,Mirpurkhas and Larkana. While the provincial dialogues examined Pakistan’s federation from a provincial autonomy perspective, the local dialogues examined federalism with provincial autonomy from a local perspective. The dialogues were designed in this way in an attempt to frame the issue of Pakistan’s federation from the Center, Provincial and local perspective.
This paper is an attempt to document the lessons learnt from this debate in the hope of getting a better understanding of the issue. This paper will not attempt to show how these measures can be taken. It’s rather an attempt to show what has gone wrong so far and how Pakistan’s national crisis evolved the way it has evolved.
For the structural purposes, this paper will take a linear view of the history, tracing the origins of federalism in our part of the world through the developments that took place in the subcontinent under the colonial rule and then chronologically moving forward. This is not to suggest that the history of federalism in Pakistan is as simplistic as the movement of the calendar. In fact, this history is much more complex and has as much to do with British influence on political thought in India as it is linked with the development of a distinct Muslim identity in the subcontinent. This history has also a lot to do with how the movement for Pakistan originated in those parts of India where the Muslims were in a minority but how they could realize their idea of a separate homeland only in Muslim majority areas of un-partitioned India. The cultural and socio-economic differences between the Muslims living as minority and those living as majorities were so huge that they overrode most other considerations when it came to nation-building and state-building in the post-partition Pakistan. This paper, however, may not be able to do justice with all these various factors due to constraints of time and space.
This paper is not an academic effort and, therefore, will try not to indulge in a discussion of federalism per se. It will also leave out a debate on various kinds and forms of federalism in vogue in various parts of the world and their merits and demerits.
This paper relies on a number of written/secondary sources – most of them culled from the Internet -- for information, data, historical progress and analysis. They will be acknowledged in the text where possible. Where otherwise, passages appearing in the quotation marks should be deemed as taken from these sources.
The paper, in a way, remains a part of the question allowing a detailed exposition of the malaise so that others can come in and suggest remedies based on some recommendations from Pakistani liberals.
One suggestion, we would like to make at the outset. Threats to national unity and the territorial integrity are genuine. They have already realized themselves once in the separation of East Pakistan in 1971 .The answer to them does not lie in repeating tried and tested, but unsuccessful rather counterproductive, methods being employed even today.
The death of prominent Baloch leader, Nawab Akbar Bugti, in an army operation should serve as a reminder to those who, in the run up to Bangladesh’s emergence as an independent state, had thought security forces would put an end to the problems created by a lopsided polity. Political problems require political solutions.
We would like to argue that it’s about time that Pakistan rethinks its implementation of federal ideas before these political problems become too intractable to be solved politically. This paper will try to set the ball rolling as far as bringing the debate about federal theory and its convoluted Pakistani version to the centre stage.
The Theoretical background
According to encyclopedia definitions, federalism is a “system of government in which power is divided between a central authority and its constituent political units”. Another definition puts federalism as a “political system that binds a group of states into a larger, non-centralized, superior state while allowing them to maintain their own political identities”. A federal system allows a superior state to exist without having to impinge upon the identity of its constituent parts by dividing the final authority between federating units and the center. In the words of Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, in a federal political order, “sovereignty is constitutionally split between at least two territorial levels so that units at each level have final authority and can act independently of the others in some area. Citizens thus have political obligations to two authorities. The allocation of authority between the (federating) unit and center may vary, typically the center has powers regarding defense and foreign policy, but sub-units may also have international roles.”
These variations vouch for various kinds and forms of federalism being practiced by different countries across the world. But various federal systems, no matter how different from each other, exhibit some characteristics common to them all. These are: “a written constitution or basic law stipulating the distribution of powers; diffusion (or devolution) of power among the constituent elements, which are substantially self-sustaining; territorial divisions to ensure neutrality and equality in the representation of various groups and interests… a sense of common nationality and direct lines of communication between the citizens and all the governments that serve them.”
While it’s beyond the scope of this paper to discuss as to why and how various federal systems look similar or different, it’s pertinent to shed some light on why a federal system comes into being and how for this, as we will see later, has direct bearings on the federalism practiced in Pakistan.
The Stanford encyclopedia gives a number of reasons for independent territorial units to form a federation. Some of these are: “States can join a federation to become jointly powerful enough to dissuade external aggressors, and/or to prevent aggressive and preemptive wars among themselves… Federations promote economic prosperity by removing internal barriers to trade, through economies of scale, by establishing and maintaining inter-sub-unit trade agreements, or by becoming a sufficiently large global player to affect international trade”. In Pakistan’s case, it’s not difficult to see why on both the strategic/defensive and economic/commercial considerations the areas falling within the territory of the country in 1947 should have had no choice but to form a federation.
How federations are formed has more or less similar relevance for Pakistan. The Stanford encyclopedia cites two ways for independent regions to form a federation. They “may come together by ceding or pooling sovereign powers in certain domains for the sake of goods otherwise unattainable, such as security or economic prosperity”. (Examples: the United States of America, Switzerland, and Australia.) Or they may form a ‘holding together’ federation which is developed “from unitary states, as governments’ response to alleviate threats of secession by territorially clustered minorities”. (Examples: India, Belgium, Canada and Spain.)
This difference in the way a federation takes shape explains why in some federal systems centre is more powerful than the state or the provinces and in others states or provinces hold greater authority than the central government. The ‘coming together’ federations are based on a bottom-up approach where the centre does not have any powers to start with. Its authority comprises of all the powers ceded or pooled willingly by the constituent units. The ‘holding together’ federations in fact come into being as a result of transformation in unitary states, trying to hold their own in the face of separatist and secessionist tendencies among their constituent parts. It’s, therefore, a top-down mechanism where a strong centre gradually allows the constituents parts to gain power at its own expense.
The ‘coming together’ federations are arranged in such a way that the center and majorities don’t run away with all the power in their hands overriding the smaller and minor constituent parts. But the ‘holding together’ federations “often grant some sub-units particular domains of sovereignty e.g. over language and cultural rights in an asymmetric federation, while maintaining broad scope of action for the central government and majorities”.
It’s difficult for this paper, if not impossible, to determine on the basis of the definitions given above as to which form of federalism suited Pakistan the best, given the peculiar circumstances of its emergence and subsequent existence. But at a later stage this paper will argue that at the early stages of its history, the country failed to appreciate if it was to be a ‘coming together’ federation or a ‘holding together’ one. This failure, along with many others, resulted in a constitutional ambiguity which persists till today, mostly with adverse consequences.
I- Pakistan, the early days
The movement for an independent state of Pakistan was short on policy and long on rhetoric. It was basically focused on a single-point exit plan from an Indian union in which the Muslims thought they would be subjugated to the tyranny of a Hindu majority. The only piece of paper that can be considered coming anywhere close to a policy document is called Lahore Resolution, passed in Lahore on March 23, 1940 by a mammoth gathering of the Muslims under the platform of All India Muslim League.
The part of the resolution that concerns the development of federalism in Pakistan, or the lack of it, reads: “No constitutional plan would be workable or acceptable to the Muslims unless geographical contiguous units are demarcated into regions which should be so constituted with such territorial readjustments as may be necessary. That the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in majority as in the North-Western and Eastern zones of India should be grouped to constitute independent states in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign”.
There can be no clearer case for a federal Pakistan because the resolution talks of more than one independent state, to be created for the Muslims of India in different parts of the subcontinent.
Followed in its letter and spirit, the resolution could have gone a long way in addressing most, if not all, of the political problems of Pakistan in days to come. The merits for two states – on in the north west of India and the other in the east of the subcontinent, as the resolution declares – are self-evident. This is what has happened anyway with the creation of Bangladesh but if it was allowed to take place at the beginning, it would have saved people living in both Pakistan and Bangladesh a lot of bloodshed, not to mention heartburn, ill-will, and exploitation.
But the most important merit of the resolution for the purposes of this paper lie in its recognition that the future state, or states, it seeks would be a federal one, comprising sovereign and autonomous constituent units. The centre, or centers, would be lean dealing only with the subjects that autonomous and sovereign constitute units would allow it to have.
The apologists for a strong central government for the newly born Pakistan would argue that the situation changed too much between 1940 and 1947 and too quickly for the Muslims of Indian to re-articulate their response to it as they did through the Lahore Resolution. If they had the chance, they would certainly have somewhat amended the resolution, goes the argument. But it goes without saying that much more than lack of a clear policy statement on the future of Pakistan mattered when the leaders of Pakistan movement sat down to building a state and a nation.
In an article entitled ‘Pluralism and Democracy in Pakistan’ political scientist Dr Mohammad Waseem sums up the factors that came into play when these things were being decided. Dr. Waseem writes: “The establishment of Pakistan as a Muslim homeland in 1947 transformed a religious minority into a majority community overnight. Far from the position of an insecure minority in British India, constantly looking for constitutional mechanisms to safeguard its interests within the framework of what was generally perceived as the emerging Hindu-dominated federation; Muslims now controlled the levers of power in a state of their own. The new ruling elite saw itself as a proud heir to the legacy of Indo-Muslim civilization and, almost as a corollary, perceived its eastern neighbor as a Hindu state despite its secular credentials. The insecurity syndrome which operated in Pakistan with the backdrop of the war in Kashmir (1947–49) created a political context at home which was increasingly and often deliberately oriented to the cause of unity among the ranks of the nation. In other words, the ethnically pluralist character of Pakistan society was destined to face grave challenges from the very beginning”.
Before attempting to discuss the composition of Pakistan’s elite and its efforts at creating a national unity, it’s important that a point is made here about how the creation of Pakistan offered a unique opportunity to its constituent units to start the creation of the centre from the scratch because there was no central government to speak of in the new state. The provincial and local governments in its most parts were, however, functional. Only in Punjab and Bengal they were handicapped by a debilitating effect of the bloodshed and migration caused by the partition. This would have been a classic case of a ‘coming together’ federation a la the United States of America in which the constituent units cede as much power as they deem desirable to the centre to handle the subjects which they cannot effectively manage on their own. A detailed analysis as to why this did not happen is for the historians to undertake. This paper will just focus on the character, composition and the strength of Pakistan’s ruling elite in the early days of the country to show how they managed to thwart this from taking place.
According to Dr Waseem, “the major part of this elite had come from non-Pakistan areas while the popular leaderships from various provinces were relegated to a secondary level.” The bulk of this elite came from the United Provinces (UP) because the Muslim elite there “surpassed its counterparts from all other regions of India in terms of higher education and representation in government services”. Urdu, the first language of the UP Muslims,… became the national language of Pakistan even though it was the first language of only 3 per cent of the people in the new state. Among the ninety-five Muslim Indian Civil Service officers who opted for Pakistan, two-thirds came from Urdu speaking migrants”.
Another researcher, Sudhir Singh, in his article ‘Ethnicity and Regional Aspirations In Pakistan’, notes how overwhelming the dominance of this elite was. “The Muslim League leadership was heavily Mohajir dominated. Just after independence, out of twenty-seven top posts of the country, including Prime Minister, Chief Minister, Governor, Attorney General etc, Mohajirs numbered about eighteen.”
How this came about has its answer in not just the superior rate of higher education among the mohajirs, in particular those coming from UP, but also in the demographic and geographic aspects of the movement for Pakistan. Sudhir writes: “Pakistan movement was very strong in Muslim minority provinces; where Muslims feared Hindu domination most. Pakistan, however, was created in the Muslim majority Provinces of Northwestern India and Bengal.”
What influence it had in terms of developing a system of governance for Pakistan? A lot.First because in the new state the mohajirs were as much a minority as they were in those parts of united India where they originally came from. This regenerated their fears of insecurity, of a domination by the Punjabis, the Bengalis, the Sindhis, the Pathans and the Baloch who all were numerically much more than them and who all, unlike the mohajirs, had been living in the areas that became parts of Pakistan for centuries. Also, all these people had very strong ethnic characters, peculiar customs and traditions and patterns of social organization which differed sharply from those in practice among the mohajirs. In the new state, the mohajirs found themselves in the same situation they wanted to come out of by opting out of a united India. In Pakistan they were still in a minority, as they were in India, except in one crucial aspect: Islam.
Spurred by their administrative, educational and political superiority, they sought to equate the new state with Islam, thereby attempting to neutralize all attempts – cultural, ethnic and democratic means – which could have relegated to a secondary position as their number warranted. Long pampered by the British regime through reservations and separate electorates, they were clearly afraid to lose their privileged status to their new compatriots. That’s why they so vehemently opposed any ethnic, cultural and even democratic movement in Pakistan that anyone found talking about these things was declared an enemy of the new country. The new nation was to be built on a single slogan: Religion.
Similarly, the people in the new state were to have only one cultural identity, that of Pakistanis as manifested by the Urdu speaking mohajirs who thought themselves as the veritable heirs to the Indo-Muslim civilization. This point is very succinctly made by Dr Waseem in the following passage:
“The minority syndrome that had characterized Muslim politics in British India, in both theory and practice, continued to cast its shadow on the politics of Pakistan. The state forming character of Muslim nationalism in British India was transformed into a nation-forming agenda in post-independence Pakistan. The fact that the Pakistan movement was lacking in policy content only meant that the state elite increasingly pressed Islamic ideology into serving the need for national integration at the cost of addressing the pluralist character of the society.”
How this exclusivist focus manifested itself in the polity came about through the discrediting of anyone speaking in the name of ethnicity, provincial autonomy and/or indigenous culture? This is how Dr Waseem describes this phenomenon: “Popular ethnic leaders including G M Syed of Sindh, Ghaffar Khan of NWFP and A K Fazlul Haq, Maulana Bhashani and Mujiburrehman of East Bengal were incarcerated and, in some cases, de-legitimized by the federal government”.
The inordinate focus on national unity and Islamic identity put paid to any dreams of creating a federal Pakistan, even with a strong centre. The new state, dominated by mohajirs (bureaucracy, politics) and Punjabis (army) paid little attention to the aspirations of the minorities, let alone give them fair representation in the institutions of the new state. Says Dr Waseem: “An obvious casualty in the way of establishment in Karachi of a self-sustaining machinery of government in the immediate post-partition years was the political representation of various ethnic communities from East Bengal and the smaller provinces of the western wing. The leadership of these communities was either not the visible and significant part of the Pakistan movement, such as the political leadership in the Baluchistan states of Kalat, Mekran and Lasbela, or was on the other side of the political divide such as the NWFP’s Congressite leadership and the leadership of the Hindu community in general.”
While the ruling elite was strengthening its hold on different levers of power, it still knew that it needed to do something more than repeating the mantra of religion and national unity to cater to the political aspirations of the people who had pinned high hopes of social emancipation, political empowerment and economic advancement on the new state. This acknowledgement appeared as a resolution of objectives for the formulation of a governance system in Pakistan. The Objective Resolution was one of the earliest legislative acts that Pakistan’s first Legislative Assembly came up with.
The Resolution, despite its strong Islamic content, grants the people of Pakistan the right to exercise sovereignty in Pakistan through their elected representatives and says: “Wherein the territories now included in or in accession with Pakistan and such other territories as may hereafter be included in or accede to Pakistan shall form a Federation wherein the units will be autonomous with such boundaries and limitations on their powers and authority as may be prescribed.”
This commitment to both elective democracy and a federation comprising autonomous, if not sovereign as stated by the Lahore Resolution, units, alas could never materialize. In the coming years, the central government sacked or changed all provincial governments  except in Balochistan where they did not exist in those days, and never bothered to seek a fresh public mandate for itself and the Legislative Assembly till it was sacked by then Governor General Ghulam Muhammad in 1954.
Despite the iron-clad control exercised by the central government, the polity was convulsing under the heavy burden of a Leviathan most people would have been relieved to get rid of. In fact, it was public disaffection towards the central government that resulted in the murder of the country’s first prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan in 1951, language movement in East Bengal against the imposition of Urdu as the national language, anti-Ahmedi riots in Punjab in 1953 which resulted in the first Martial Law administration taking control in Punjab and a revolt by Prince Abdul Karim Khan, the brother of Khan of Kalat after the state acceded to Pakistan in 1948.
If the ruling, acting contrary to what its instinct for survival had then determined, embarked on a genuinely democratic and federal path, all the travails might not have happened at all.
II-Pakistan, after the start
After remaining dormant for about two years, the Legislative Assembly was revived from its ashes in 1956, though the central government could have taken the route of holding fresh elections for it. In the interregnum, between 1954 and 1956, the central government functioned under a Governor General who picked and chose prime ministers on his will and dealt with the provincial assemblies and provincial governments as he pleased.
This was a sufficient proof that the absence of a democratizing, federalizing instinct among the ruling elite not just treats the polity at large in an undemocratic manner, it also tends to dangerously divide the ruling elite into permanently squabbling factions, never agreeing to a single thing, and ultimately paving the way for the personal ambition to amass all powers in the hands of a strong man.
That the Pervez Musharraf coup in 1999 was an umpteenth instance of this happening is yet another proof of how Pakistan’s ruling elite has been moving in circles to find a way out of the blind alley it had pushed itself into in the early years of the country’s history by shutting the doors of political participation, democratic expression and economic emancipation on anyone who wanted the country’s constituent units, the provinces, to be come genuinely autonomous.
Why the ruling elite was able to do as it liked till the mid-1950s without having to face a constitutional/legal challenge is because of the interim constitutional arrangement that Pakistan adopted for itself before coming up with one of its own.
It was a reformed/amended Government of India Act 1935 which provided for a very strong central government able to sack provincial governments and provincial assemblies if and when it thought they were deviating too much from the path chartered for them by the centre, in terms of the subjects that they could handle.
The Legislative Assembly, renamed as Constituent Assembly because of its mandate to devise a constitution for Pakistan, was also chosen under the provisions of 1935 Act and was elected in 1946 through a limited franchise, separate electorate and reserved seats system. Almost all the conditions that necessitated this system in 1946 were removed in 1947 but still the assembly insisted on carrying on nevertheless without bothering about seeking a fresh mandate. Also, a large number of its members came from the areas which formed no part of Pakistan. In fact, due to their prominence in the league leadership, they were able to dictate terms at the expense of those who came from the areas making up Pakistan. This anomalous origin and convoluted composition of the assembly is a major reason why it came up with the constitutional scheme known as the 1956 constitution.
As noted earlier, the most important members of the Legislative Assembly had carried forward their minority syndrome into Pakistan, giving it a demographic dimension instead of a religious one, as was the case in united India. So, it was natural for them to think of only those constitutional schemes which somehow safeguarded their privileged status. In the constitutional scheme that they endorsed in 1956 Pakistanis in the western part of the country were more equal than their compatriots in the eastern wing. This was done through a not-so-ingenious device called parity which simply meant that fifty six per cent of East Pakistanis will elect as many members to the central legislature as forty four per cent West Pakistanis.
Ostensibly it was a federalizing factor supposedly aimed at protecting the minorities from the numerical tyranny of the majority. But the majority in this case was already reeling under the acute feeling of political, economic, culture and administrative marginalization and saw the parity as another weapon in the armory of the central government to keep East Pakistan subjugated. If Pakistan had been a ‘coming together’ federation, the parity could have done well to keep the federation going without the fears of one ethnic group or one constituent unit dominating all the proceedings. But after having missed the chance to create a ‘coming together’ federation by convening a constitutional convention much larger and more representative than the Legislative Assembly chosen under a colonial dispensation, Pakistan chose to become a ‘holding together’ federation. In this kind of federation, a strong centre needs to be seen as ceding power to keep the constituent units interested in the federation. Parity, in this context, was certainly not a giving away of power to a constituent unit. It was rightly seen as an already strong centre further chipping away at any perceived advantage that a constituent unit had in terms of numbers.
While parity was an anomalous grafting, the one unit created by bringing together all the provinces and territories in the West Pakistan was an obvious travesty of a system even remotely thinking itself as federal. It created a strong regional block, in the mirror image of the central government, at the cost of giving provincial autonomy to smaller provinces and minority regions in West Pakistan. It guaranteed that the Punjabis – due to their superior numbers as well relatively strong presence in the administrative and security set up, had a firm grip over power in West Pakistan as the mohajirs had in the whole of the country. One unit also was at a tangent with the principle of parity which denied majority to a more numerous people. The creation of West Pakistan, on the other hand, perpetuated a strong Punjabi representation in all corridors of power, because they were more in numbers than the population of all the rest of western constituent units combined, in not just the governments formed in West Pakistan under the 1956 constitution but in all the future constitutional, semi-constitutional and unconstitutional dispensations that Pakistan was to suffer in the decades to come.
Another anomalous feature of the 1956 constitution, in terms of federalism, was the creation of the office of an all-powerful President which in reality was nothing more than a change in the name from Governor General but in fact it was a continuation of a colonial practice which saw the transfer of real power to the elected representatives of the people with suspicion. The President, as provided by the 1956 constitution, was too powerful an office for any fallible individual to handle with caution, clear conscience and a sense of balance.
And this is exactly what happened in less than two years after the constitution had been promulgated. After making, breaking and remaking central governments under one pretext or the other, President Iskander Mirza finally abrogated the constitution and paved the way for Pakistan’s first martial law regime, headed by Ayub Khan, to take over.
The 1962 constitution, a brain-child of Ayub Khan, was designed to give legitimacy to his military regime under a political structure whose support largely came from two institutions of the central government: the army and civil bureaucracy.
The 1962 constitution provided a strong role for the President, both as the head of the state and government. One unit system was continued under the constitution, so was parity.
The sole federal feature in the new constitution was the provision of separate legislative lists for the central and the provincial governments. The central list had forty nine items on which the federal legislature could legislate but no specific items were mentioned in the provincial and concurrent list. This omission could have been interpreted any one way: to the advantage of the provinces if they had the will and power to make it so or to the benefit of the centre which needed only to assert the power it already had to tilt the balance further in its favor.
With the benefit of hindsight, the popular response to these constitutional schemes, which gradually degenerated from creating a strong centre to keep a strong man in power at the centre, should not have been surprising and unpredictable. Checks on the full political participation of the East Pakistanis in the affairs of the state perpetuated the feeling among them that West Pakistan in general and Punjabis in particular were bent upon exploiting them politically and economically, disallowing them even a modicum of cultural/ethnic identity by declaring it an anathema to the nation-building character of Islamic unity of the country. In West Pakistan, the Pakhtoons in the Frontier, the Sindhis in the rural hinterland of that province and the Balochis in Balochistan all felt strangulated politically, economically and culturally in a regional block dominated by the Punjabis.
This was a perfect situation for parties and alliances to emerge with strong ethnic agenda, thrown in good measure along with demands for provincial autonomy in economic, political and administrative terms. And they did emerge, as National Awami Party (mostly in the West Pakistan) and Awami League (mostly in East Pakistan). Leaders like Maulana Bhashani and Sheikh Mujibur Rehman from the Eastern part and Wali Khan, Abdul Samad Achkzai, Khair Bukhsh Marri, Ataullah Mengal and G M Syed from the Western part of the country. All of these parties and leaders combined their ethnic demands with economic justice and free political participation, at least in the beginning. Later some of them took the extreme route of secessionism and separatism, as is the case with Mujib and Awami League, but most of them remained loyal to the idea of a united Pakistan, though the one which was not dominated by a single ethnic group and which allowed the constituent parts of the federation a fair amount of political, economic and cultural autonomy.
The central government’s response to their demand was singularly couched in terms of power. Not only anyone asking for provincial autonomy was jailed and termed a traitor, even their supporters from among Punjab and the central government were banned from practicing politics. Army was sent where dissent became too much to control by other means, for instance, in Balochistan. A secondary response was co-opting political leaders and parties from the regions and provinces where demands for the provincial autonomy were the loudest.
While the first response led to an open conflict between the central government and the seekers of provincial autonomy culminating in the separation of East Pakistan as Bangladesh, the second response discredited a large pool of political talent which, if left uncorrupted by the central government, could have played a sobering role. It is unfortunate that situation still has not changed much.
III-The constitution and afterwards
The creation of Bangladesh was a severe jolt for the theory that nation-building as well as state-building could be carried out in Pakistan on the lone pillar of religion. The necessity to accommodate the ethnic/cultural identities of the constituent units, to make room for their political participation in the affairs of the state and to ensure a fair and even distribution of economic resources and development could never have been emphasized by any other event of a lesser magnitude. Only a very naïve ruling elite could have satisfied itself that it can go on building the state and the nation, disregarding all these factors, especially when the ruling elite at the start of the 1970s was much different composition that held sway during much of the 1950s.
Thoroughly discredited by its failure to offer the country a viable and stable system of governance which ensured unity as well as continuity, the mohajor-dominated elite slowly started yielding power to two rising stars under the long years of Ayub Khan’s rule. They were Punjab and the Pakhtoons of NWFP. The Punjabis, though nominally present in the bureaucracy and the political elite in the early years of Pakistan, were very strongly represented in the army which, under Ayub Khan, ruled the country in 1960s. They slowly but surely took advantage of the situation and steadily increased their share in the political and administrative set up. By 1973, they occupied 53.5 per cent of all bureaucratic posts. The share of the mohajirs by the same time had decreased to 33.5 per cent from their absolute dominance immediately after 1947. Pakhtoons’ fortunes – in terms of government employment — also dramatically rose under Ayub, himself from NWFP. In 1968 Pakhtoons were almost 40 per cent of the top military elite, thus getting the bigger share than the Punjabis (35-40 per cent). This partly explains why by the mid and late 1960s the idea of an independent Pakhtoon nation, Pakhtoonistan — which was a major rallying cry for the central governments in Pakistan during the 1950s to crack down on anything closely and even falsely resembling a secessionist tendency – had lost most of its attraction for the residents of NWFP.
But the most visible and recognizable face of the changed demographic pattern of the ruling elite was Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a Sindhi feudal lord, with foreign education, populist appeal and personal charisma. His Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) won most of the National Assembly seats in the West Pakistan in 1970 elections held for the first time under universal adult franchise. The party successfully combined anti-India rhetoric with slogans of economic justice and people empowerment. Also important, from a federal perspective, was the electoral success of National Awami Party (NAP) in Balochistan and NWFP. The party had fought the election from the platform of individuals and groups who stood for maximum provincial autonomy and the recognition of ethnic/cultural identities. Its emergence as a major power broker in the two provinces falsified the utopian notion that almost two decades of living together in one unit might have done away with ethnic/cultural differences in West Pakistan.
It was quite natural that a ruling elite so dramatically revamped should try to do something different, especially when the ways and means employed earlier in the name of national unity lay shattered in the killing fields of East Bengal.
The 1973 constitution, therefore, set about addressing the imbalances created by the lopsided development of a strong central government dominated by the few at the cost of many. It sought to address the problem of minorities’ poor presence in the civil services by introducing a quota system; it created a bicameral parliament, the upper house of which was to have equal members from all the federating units while allowing the majority province to send members to the lower house in line with its share of the population of the country. This provided a neat break from the principle of parity, so fatally incorporated in the earlier constitutional schemes, simultaneously ensuring that this departure did not prove too much to bear for the smaller provinces.
This is how Dr Waseem explains the two steps: “Punjab emerged as the new majority province in West Pakistan, commanding nearly 58 per cent of the population in the country. In the process of constitution-making in the post-Bangladesh state of Pakistan, this created the problem of giving proper representation to smaller provinces and thus constraining the brute majority of one province in the federal legislature. The political elite, led by the PPP, found the answer in a bicameral legislature… Punjab, with 58 per cent of the country’s population, obtained 22 per cent of the seats in the Senate whereas all the other provinces and FATA together, with 42 per cent of the population, obtained 78 per cent… Comprising 3 per cent of the population of united Pakistan, the mohajirs enjoyed representation in the civil service that was seven times greater than their numbers even in early 1970s. On the other hand, the Sindhi representation was negligible, reportedly 250 out of 10,000 bank employees and 1 out of 5,000 federal government employees in Sindh.Recognizing this wide gap, the 1973 Constitution redefined the quota (of government jobs) for various communities. It provided 10 per cent for NWFP, 3.5 per cent for Baluchistan, 4 per cent for Northern Areas and FATA and 2 per cent for Azad Kashmir. The share of Sindh, 19 per cent, was subdivided, reserving 11.4 per cent for the rural sector and 7.6 per cent for urban Sindh.”
According to Dr Waseem, the rationale for all these changes was self-evident: “The elite learnt the grim lesson from the emergence of Bangladesh that all ethnic communities should be duly and meaningfully accommodated in the system of government. It was realized that the continuing alienation of an ethnic community in the rest of the country could lead to a further breakdown of the political system in the face of the “permanent” majority of one community, i.e. Punjab. The 1973 Constitution fully represented this trend.”
Some important correcting steps were, however, taken even before the country split. For instance one unit was dismantled on July 1, 1970, elevating Balochistan to the status of a fully fledged separate province. The same year, Karachi, which being the only cosmopolitan centre of Pakistan was carved out of Sindh province as the federal capital in 1948, was merged back into that province.
The constitution, of course, took all these positive developments ahead in a giant leap by seeking to institutionalize federalism for the first time in the history of the country. A National Finance Commission was set up to decide on the distribution of financial resources between the provinces, a Council of Common Interests was constituted to oversee the management of natural resources as well as strategic economic and industrial assets.
But the constitution was not an unmixed blessing for a federal Pakistan. It had a number of anomalies, favoring the central government at the expense of the provinces. These anomalies were rendered more prominent by Bhutto’s erratic behavior while in power and subsequent amendments in the constitution. Dr Waseem, thus, notes the impact of some of these anomalies: “Now the asymmetrical policy scope of the two houses of parliament practically nullified the positive impact of over-representation of smaller provinces in the Senate. For example, finance bills, especially the national budget, could be introduced only in the National Assembly. Second, the centre continued to control the Federal Legislative List as well as the Concurrent Legislative List of subjects, while no provincial list was provided in the 1973 Constitution.”
In fact, on the legislative lists, the constitution was a major step backwards. “The Government of India Act 1935, that Pakistan adopted as its first working constitution gave the federation ninety-six items of powers. The 1956 constitution reduced it to forty nine. This number was retained in the 1962 constitution but in 1973 it was enlarged to a massive one hundred and fourteen.” Also in the 1956 constitution, unlike in the 1973 constitution, there were separate federal, provincial and concurrent lists. There were 30 items in the federal list, 94 items in the provincial list and 19 items in the concurrent list. Also, the fact that the federal legislation is given a superior status by the 1973 constitution on the subjects on the concurrent further reduces the legislative autonomy of the provinces.
Bhutto’s sacking of provincial governments in Balochistan and NWFP was seen as an even bigger attack on provincial autonomy. But he did not stop at that. He put all the Pakhtoon and Baloch nationalist leadership in jail in Hyderabad to face a trial for treason and sent the army into Balochistan to quell a rebellion by the Marri tribesmen.
Bhutto’s exit at the hands of his handpicked army chief, his subsequent hanging and the prolonged period of Zia’s martial law did not end before doing away some of the most federalizing structures of the constitution. Through the 8th constitutional amendment, Zia not just sanctified his rule but also he empowered the president to sack the federal and provincial assemblies as well as governments. One minor good, however, did come out of this huge constitutional tinkering. The amendment put some balance in the federal system by raising the strength of the Senate, the upper house of the parliament, and giving it greater legislative powers including oversight over finance bill.
Though the most damaging features of the 8th amendment were done away with through the 13th amendment, they made a spectacular comeback via the 17th amendment purported to legitimize the control of another strongman from the army at the helm.
Pakistan’s federalism and constitutional changes.
These constitutional changes aggravated the institutional crisis which had started eroding the federal foundations of the constitution from the start. For instance, “since 1990 there have been grievances shown by the three provinces of Sindh, NWFP, and Balochistan, particularly the last two, over the distribution of financial resources from the pool under the National Financial Commission Award (NFC). They have also shown bitter resistance to the dominant role of Punjab in the Council of Coordination for Common Interests (CCI),” writes Dr Mansoor Akbar Kundi in his paper ‘Federalism/Demarcation of Roles for Units in Pakistan’. In fact, CCI instead of serving as a conflict resolution mechanism between the centre and the provinces on the one hand and among the provinces on the other has been constituted and convened only occasionally and that too to rubber stamp the decisions taken by the central government. If anyone ever had a doubt about this role of the CII, they can refresh their knowledge by referring to its recent decision to endorse the re-privatization of Pakistan Steel Mills after its initial privatization was rejected as flawed by the Supreme Court.
This is how another commentator, Anwar Shah, a World Bank economist, comments on the functioning of the National Finance Commission. “The Finance Commission has a chequered history, with many instances of either not meeting, or meeting and not achieving a consensus view. During the past decades, only the 1991 and 1997 NFC recommendations were made public and implemented.” Only this year, before the budget, the commission yet again failed to achieve a consensus on a new formula for distributing financial resources between them and the centre as well as among them.
Even when these federal institutions gave an appearance of functioning, their working has not always been flawless. Anwar Shah, in a paper entitled ‘Pakistan in the Millennium: Federalism Reform Imperatives, Restructuring Principles and Lessons’ points out some of the weaknesses in the system of revenue collection and resource distribution.He writes: “The allocation of taxing powers to various levels of government has an important bearing on the character of federalism and on accountability. For example, if the ability of sub-national, jurisdictions to raise their own tax revenues is restricted, this can impose significant constraints on the ability of these jurisdictions to fulfill their proper expenditure responsibilities, and can therefore compromise the potential benefits to be had from decentralization.
The higher the tax rates chosen by the federal government, the less room there will be for raising revenues by sub-national levels, and the more dependent will the latter be on the federal government for their revenues. The federal government in Pakistan collects 90.7 per cent of consolidated current revenues and retains only 59.3 per cent for own use.The provincial governments, reciprocate by collecting taxes on capital values and for the religious taxes, zakat and ushr, at rates determined by the federal government, and turning the proceeds over to the federal government. Such an arrangement whereby revenues are passed upwards is unusual in federations, the notable exceptions being China (a unitary country) and Russia. Pakistan has the tendency to assign major tax bases exclusively to one level of government or the other. Moreover, those bases that are often the largest revenues sources, such as sales and excise taxes and income taxes, are assigned to the federal government.
This tendency to exclusive assignment has been a factor leading to the highly centralized revenue raising system observed in Pakistan. The revenue sharing has the disadvantage of not fostering accountability at the provincial level. The provincial governments are almost completely dependent upon revenue transfers from higher levels of government to finance their own expenditures. They have no control over their major sources of revenue, and may not have any incentives for cost efficiency or for raising revenues from own sources as additional efforts may not be worth the political costs.
The current practice of the federal government levying excises on production and royalties on natural resource exploitation and turning over the proceeds to the provinces … is anomalous for three reasons. First if these are provincial revenue sources, it is not clear why the federal government should be involved in their administration. Accountability would be enhanced by allowing the provinces to act as their own tax authorities. Second, given that crude oil and natural gas are distributed unevenly across provinces, the practice of returning them to the province of origin leads to differences in fiscal capacity across provinces. And third, fiscal federalism principles suggest that major resource revenues should be retained as federal revenues… External participants may also unwittingly impede development of a decentralized public sector in developing countries.
A multitude of factors contribute to this development. First, a centralized system lowers transaction costs for external assistance and enlarges the comfort zone for external participants in terms of monitoring the utilization of their funds for intended purposes. Second, some external participants have concerned themselves primarily with the revenue performance of developing countries. Such concerns may lead to larger centralized bureaucracies that pay little attention to efficient delivery of public services. For example in Pakistan, improved revenue performance of governments has been accompanied by ever deteriorating quality and quantity of public services. Third, centralized systems are more prone to a lack of internal policy agenda due to a lack of citizen participation and more dependent on external advice on policy reform…Availability of generous external assistance might have played a part in motivating the federal government in assuming some provincial responsibilities and the provincial governments in overtaking local government mandates.”
In this backdrop of institutional logjam, some demographic changes and ethnic/political tensions are putting an added burden on the federal system, aggressively pushing it to more centralization, unless of course thorough reform of the system is carried out purging it of all the past, present and future anomalies.
Most of the political tensions among the federating units stem from an overbearing presence of Punjab in the Pakistani polity. From the issue of distribution of financial resources and development funds to the apportioning of the river water and building of big dams like the one at Kalabagh on the Indus river, this province stands accused by the smaller units of the federation as being exploitative, hegemonic and even predatory. No wonder than that Sudhir k Singh writes that “as far as fulfillment of regional aspiration are concerned, after the secession of Bangladesh, Punjab has emerged as the focal point of the unity and integrity as well as the cause of regional assertion”.
He sums up his argument by decrying that “the frequent outbreak of federal provincial and inter-provincial crisis continues to disturb the federal equilibrium. In the process the ruling elites, in a bid to keep the union intact tend to gravitate more and more towards centralization.
Anwar Shah sees this centralizing tendency in the light of prolonged army rule and the failure to abolish feudalism. “In Pakistan, political instability and feudal interests have contributed to setting aside constitutional dictums and introducing a system of centralized governance. Pakistan has been under military rule for a major part of its existence which do not accommodate decentralized decision making. During the periods, political activities have been permitted, feudal influences have dominated the political system and these influences favor either a centralization or provincialization of authority.”
The need for democracy to deal with ethnic, regional, political and economic variations in a federation cannot be overemphasized. That the central government Pakistan is facing, and has faced, a number of serious challenges because of these variations goes without saying but what needs to be highlighted the center’s response to these challenges has been, without exception, undemocratic. Instead of letting the constituent express their aspirations through democratic means by branding them as anti-national, the centre forced them to resort to undemocratic means and as a consequence further straining, and in one instance altogether snapping, the relationship between the centre and provinces.
Civilized societies resolve their problems through dialogues, constitutional conventions and legal probity by ensuring that everyone at the end of the day gets a fair deal. Only societies bent upon destroying themselves from within either try to suppress the conflicts of interests between their constituent units or attempt to deal with them through violent means. Even the American civil war did not end with the defeat of one party. It needed a constitutional convention and long period of impartial and universal application of constitutional covenants to heal the wounds.
Sadly for Pakistan, the conflicts go on indefinitely without any likelihood of their constitutional/political resolution taking place any time soon. Without having to look everywhere to know how the country has been moving in circles since its independence in terms of creating a democratic, federal system of governance, even a cursory look at the events in just one constituent unit of the country, Balochistan, shows that it has been subjected to a lot of violence during the last six decades. That individuals, tribes and even political groups have stood up in arms for one reason or the other against the central government in almost every decade since 1947 shows how grave the problem and how ham-handed the central government’s response to it is.
In any federal system worth the name, the federating units bargain their coming together based on their relative weaknesses and strengths. The central government in Pakistan from the outset told the constituent units of the country to come together unconditionally. Where people wanted to have it otherwise, they were either sidelined through political means (via a referendum in the Frontier) or annexed through bribery, cooption and even armed confrontation (as is the case with various princely states that fell within in Pakistani territory in 1947).
So, there was no constitutional bargain to begin with among the federating units as well as between the centre and the federating units.
In fact, those who asked for a bargain were ostracized as mischief-mongers, wanting to jeopardize the unity of the nascent nation by raising issues other than its sole raison d' etre -- religion. Speaking of provincial autonomy, ethnic/cultural identity and political/democratic rights was seen as sabotaging the spirit of national unity -- couched solely in religious terminology.
In this context, it was easy for the central government and the state to go about doing what it liked and how it pleased. Provinces, like Balochistan, were the easiest to target. Divided into a number of tribal fiefs and what was once called British Balochistan, it is a perfect model how the new state went about building itself and a nation around itself. The centre first coaxed, co-opted and even forcibly annexed all the various Baloch princely states like Kalat, Kharan, Makran and Lasbella and then merged them with the British Balochistan. But it was left in a constitutional limbo for a very long time. It was only in 1970 that it became a full-fledged province. Before that it was first governed by a Chief Commissioner appointed by and answerable only to the central government and then as part of the West Pakistan one unit it was governed by a governor sitting in Lahore and acting no more than as a repressive arm of the centre, at least for the smaller regions in one unit.
The creation of and existence of one unit, too, was an expression of the centre's unifying, centralising instinct beyond Balochistan. The areas that became parts of one unit were in it before they could even think of bargaining for terms and conditions of their entry. It was but a logical extension of the state's efforts at ensuring national unity and territorial integrity of the country through decree, instead of letting it emerge as the result of conscious debate, understanding and bargaining by the people of the country.
In the absence of an agreement on entry, exit too needed something other than dialogue, accords and conventions. Those pushed into creating one unit had only one exit option, to revolt against it. This was indeed true for the constituent units of the federation as a whole, as shown by the creation of Bangladesh in such an unmistakably bloody way.
Exit is an extreme step, though, coming many stages after bargaining, coming together and accommodation. Ideally it should be resorted to after accommodation fails and lines of communication break up for creating a new bargain to arrive at fresh rules for holding together.
In Pakistan’s case, exit -- or the threat of it -- has been the way the constituent units could extract any concessions for themselves. But the problem with these concessions is that they are not institutionalized. Not set in stone through transparent, public and enforceable contacts, they are given away more like a handout than as a right. Also, they encourage individuals to deal directly with the level of the state that can bestow them, bypassing all the intervening local, district and provincial governments. This is the case of natural gas royalties being paid by a state-owned company to a tribal chief by the name of Akbar Bugti.
This equation between strong individuals and the central government is also evident in the system of federal appointments. In the absence of an institutionalized mechanism to ensure that all constituent parts of the state are fairly represented in the federation, the central government resorts to a tokenism which benefits individuals, willing to be co-opted and shown as symbols of smaller provinces' presence in the federal system. The appointments of Sindhis and Baloch as Prime Ministers should be seen in this context rather than as a way to constitutionally address the problems of representation.
Sometimes, even this tokenism backfires just because of being region-specific and not community-specific. There must be hundreds of people in bureaucracy who entered the civil service on Balochistan's quota though in reality their association with that province does not go beyond a posting of their parents there at the time of their birth.
Before moving on to show why still it is federalism that can save Pakistan as a state and a nation, it is important to see if there had been any non-violent, political response to the Centre’s relentless drive away from federalism. Though it’s beyond the scope of this paper to give even a brief history of all the various attempts by, especially, smaller provinces to vent their anti-centralization demands, some current trends are too important to ignore. These are coming together of a number of parties based in smaller provinces in the form of Pakistan Oppressed Nations Movement (PONM) and the emergence of a very vibrant Sindh press, which particularly focuses on Sindh-centre and Sindh-Punjab relations.
PONM is an alliance of Nationalist Parties of Pakistan comprising of Sindh Taraqi Pasand Party, Sindhi Awami Tehreek, Balochistan National Movement, Pakhtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party and Seraiki Movement. Prominent leaders of PONM are Sardar Ataullah Mengal , Mehmood Khan Achakzai, Rasool Bux Palijo, Dr. Qadir Magsi and Syed Jalal Mehmood Shah. Ideologically, PONM is a successor to National Awami Party (NAP) of 1960 and 1960s though it does not enjoy as much political support in terms of votes and seats in the national and provincial legislatures.
The failure of various nationalist groups and parties in uniting for their cause has been one reason why the central government has been able to either sidestep them by ignoring their demands or go ahead with its own agenda by using force against anyone who resisted. This further raises the importance of the other factor: Regional press.
Sindhi press has been especially vocal agsinst the construction of Kalabagh Dam on the Indus river as an infringement of Sindh’s rights as a lower riparian province. Papers based in interior Sindh’s cities like Hyderabad and Sukkur have been equally vocal on other issues related to the distribution of water resources as well as the financial pie between the centre and the provinces as well as among the provinces. Another important concern for these papers has been the increasing rural-urban income gap within Sindh and the province’s overall failure to get an even treatment vis-a-vis the biggest province, Punjab. How a vibrant regional press can serve to strengthen federalism in Pakistan is an interesting research question.
For a heterogeneous society like Pakistan, the remedy for most of the ills, if not all of them, eating into the body politic is the creation of a federal system of governance which draws sustenance from institutionalized democracy, not from a personalized system of preferences, predilections and prejudices which ends up rewarding individuals at the cost of their communities and which without exception tends to be centralized for having to rely on strong men rather than strong institutions.
Liberal Forum Pakistan would , in the end, like to reiterate that a strong federation is a decentralized one ,where there is clear role demarcation and is based on the principle of subsidarity. Amassing powers at the center actually weakens the Federation which is not in the interest of either the Central government nor any of the other federating units.
 people who had migrated to Pakistan from the regions that fell in India after the partition
 (Khan Shaib Ministry dismissed in NWFP on 22 August 1947, M A Khuhro’s on April 20, 1948 in Sindh, Mamdoth’s on January 25, 1949 in Punjab and Fazal-ul-Haq’s in 1954 in East Pakistan)