Case For New Provinces

By Yasser Latif Hamdani

April 16, 2010 Karachi: The ongoing violence in Hazara has made most Pakistanis sit up and take notice of the issue of naming a province.

The violence underscores the need for revisiting some fundamentals of the third republic in Pakistan. When the Republic of Texas joined the US in the 19th century it had the right to divide itself into 5 smaller states allowing the state to have 10 senators instead of 2 in the US upper house but this option was never seriously considered till recently.

Dwindling Republican support in Congress, attributable primarily to its hard right turn in recent years, has forced possibly the most conservative state of the American Union to consider a voluntary division so as to bolster the Republican and far-right wing vote in the Senate. Modern Pakistan, with an estimated population of 175 million, consists of only four unnecessarily large and unwieldy provinces that continue to adversely affect Pakistan’s federal structure.

The state’s refusal to re-consider these provinces along rational lines is one of its greatest failures. In theory, this is simple: divide the country into as many as 20 provinces of equal geographical area instead of population. This would allow affirmative action for the people of Balochistan in the Senate, and balance out Punjab’s existing majority in the lower house of the parliament.

It would give recognition and protection to multiple identities at play within the federation. Both in terms of an even spread of development and symbolically as the electoral college for the office of the country’s president. This would allow for greater imagination as well as participation of all of Pakistan’s citizens.

The principle of federation can be bolstered by giving the Senate equal legislative powers at the National Assembly, and in some matters greater power than the National Assembly. It is a costly proposal but one which would have far-reaching consequences for our federation. An equitable distribution of sovereignty shall automatically bring about an equitable distribution not just of wealth but of population as well.

It would take pressure off of our major cities and make them manageable. Given a choice, most people would like to stick closer to home. This would translate into a natural federation with the federating units having substantial autonomy and power instead of the current state which is heavily centralized. It is not difficult to imagine the opposition to such re-distribution.

It will come from the entrenched feudal and political elite of the existing provinces who have long sought a position of primacy for their parochialism in this state. To them such a scheme would mean a loss of privilege and prestige. Sanctity of provincial boundaries would be argued as the gospel truth.

The 20 provinces scheme would strike one clean blow at the decaying remnants of feudalism in this country and empower people at a basic level. This is the reason it would probably never be considered.

Courtesy Express Tribune/International Herald Tribune

5 Comments

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5 responses to “Case For New Provinces

  1. Javed Hashmi is one of the leaders who admit the such possibilities. But the ‘big’ sort of leaders are still wanting to postpone the issue.

  2. PMA

    Dear Yasser: Thank you for writing on the issue I have often raised here at PTH. The protests in Hazara areas daylight the dangers Ethnic Nationalism brings to the solidarity of our Pakistani Nation. The number of provinces must be doubled at least. Gilgit-Baltistan must be given full provincial status. PATA and FATA must be eliminated. And Punjab must be divided into three new provinces. A Potowar Province north of River Jhelum with Rawalpindi as capital. A Multan-Bahawalpur Province with Multan as capital. And a Central Province with Faisalabad as new capital. On this issue I am with you.

  3. Mustafa Shaban

    The argument for dividing pakistan into smaller states is convincing. One can think of many advantages and benefits of dividing Pakistan. It may help and make things more manageable. This is the way it works with corporations and other things, smaller units are easier and better to manage. But is this the same thing with nations? The other question I want to ask is that did this work with other countries who divided themselves into smaller parts? I like the idea of more provinces but as long as there is national unity and identity. There may be some big drawbacks on more provinces.

  4. azhar aslam

    YLH

    well done. absolutely agreed.

    perhaps you guys can write a detailed intellectual case for new provinces ?

    let me know if I can help.

  5. Dividing provinces in geographical terms would mean changing the electoral system as well from being a First Past the Post system to something else. Also, i’ve never heard of the geographical division of any country or region without paying heed to its population. Last time this happened was at the congress of Berlin with Africa. clean, straight lines. And we all know what happened after that.

    I think the original formula of making provinces out of the old administrative divisions is the best one on the table.