The squabbling and present situation of Pakistan has gradually manifested itself into a greater fight; a demand for completely separate provinces, regions whose control and development will be in their own hands. After studying this matter meticulously and diligently, one would eventually come to the conclusion that the Constitution of Pakistan should not be amended to allow creation of new provinces, as it would not only lead to an economic disaster and severe ethnic rifts in the country but would also serve as a facade for the self-serving politicians in their acts of exploiting the masses.
“Come forward as servants of Islam, organize the people economically, socially, educationally and politically and I am sure that you will be a power that will be accepted by everybody” (Jinnah). These rousing words, directed to invoke in the listeners a passion, a thirst to fight for a free homeland were uttered by the revolutionary leader Mohammed Ali Jinnah at the monumental occasion of his address in March, 1940.T
hese words contributed to bring about a turning point in the history of Indian Muslims; amalgamating the entire Indian Muslim population into a single entity under a singular ideology, striving for the same goals, standing together, impenetrably, during sorrow and joy; an infallible consolidated mass, which achieved the goal set out for it, and overcame the hurdles that followed. As the years have gone by however, the bond that held them together has frayed. It has dissipated, leaving behind a pack of snarling wolves snapping and biting at each other, each one fighting for their own self.
The first matter to be taken into consideration is the economic viability of this policy. Will the country, as a whole, survive the fiscal collapse that will inevitably succeed this costly act? Soherwordi and Shahid Ali Khattak lay out the issues thus: “There will be a new debate of the division of revenues, new provincial consolidated funds should be created irrespective of the fact whether the newly created provinces are able to make their way or they will prove to be another liability on the federation” (5).The staggering cost of the mere creation of these provinces; the new buildings, documents and borders will alone strain the country’s finances to such extremes that the establishment and management of these provinces will seem almost impossible.
If, somehow, this insurmountable hurdle is conquered, there will arise the issue of the distribution of resources. Most of Pakistan’s electricity production plants, crop production, and mineral excavation plants and other resources are specialties of specific regions from where other areas are unable to access them. Once the provinces have been divided, the redistribution of these economic resources will be the cause of constant disagreement among the provinces, fostering hostile feelings in the country. The truth of this prediction can be seen even in the mechanisms of allocating these resources to the present four provinces as Khattak et al. describe; “…at times different problems interrupted the mechanism and current fiscal resource distribution did not prove up to the mark.
Deadlocks were experienced at times and hence NFC failed to deliver undisputed awards to settle vertical and horizontal resource gaps” (3). Keeping in mind these dire financial consequences one cannot help but question the wisdom of creating new provinces. Besides monetary affairs, the general population of the country would suffer tremendously if this act were to be implemented. By establishing new boundaries, we are, in essence, erasing any sense of nationalism that binds the diverse community of Pakistan into a single nation.
Theoretically the establishment of the new provinces would be on administrative basis, but in actuality it is universally understood that the partition will be on an ethno-linguistic basis. Wirsing explains the by citing the allure subnational ethnic identities hold for the various cultural societies living in Pakistan; an allure which has already caused part of Pakistan to break away and establish a separate existence for itself in the war of 1971 (7).
Only by fully appreciating the truth behind this observation can we realize the extent of the havoc that would be unleashed by the creation of new provinces. In their desire to own a separate cultural identity, the sundry ethnic groups will abandon the ideology of being a single nation under the flag of Islam, drowning themselves in hostile, violent feelings towards each other. Consider, for example, the difficulties in drawing boundaries in areas where minorities of diverse ethnicities reside.
They will find themselves all of a sudden, aliens in the society they live in, vulnerable to attack and animosity from the majority. In fact, severe opposition may be faced in the matter of establishing these state-drawn parameters in the first place, as Ahmer notes, “there is the likelihood of stakeholders — whether the ethnic majority or minority — not accepting the borders on historical, lingual, economic, political and ethnic grounds, thus increasing the possibility of conflict.”
The conflict resulting from this division will tear apart any sense of nationality that bound these people together as Pakistanis rather than, for example, as Pushtoons or Sindhis or Siraikis. This problem is best illustrated by Soherwodi and Khattak when they say that: “Instead of making a strong federation, why are we splitting our country further into sub state units? It’s just like going against the spirit of evolution in which we move from city state system to federation” (15).
Given these disastrous and terrifying concrete facts staring us blatantly in the face, why are there still cries for separate provinces coming from the nation, particularly political parties, who should fully understand these implications before introducing such a drastic policy? The straightforward answer here is that these politicians are simply indifferent to this side of the issue. To them, calling for such a change is a mere “political appeasement tool in a run up to each election” as Soherwodi and Khattak so aptly describe (1).
The silver-tongued politicians of the country are more than willing to manipulate and exploit the heated emotions of the masses as long as it serves their purposes. Zulfaqar further elaborates, “The issue of new provinces has been taken up by political parties as a political stunt and lacks the people’s will. It seems an agenda item for political point scoring while ignoring the underlying problems of the people” (7). Clearly these politicians are fine with introducing policies they are aware will shake the core of the nation, damaging it perhaps to a point beyond the point of repair, as long as it ensures them a position of authority in the governing bodies.
In case they succeed, it seems highly improbable that these authorities, who were from the start harboring traitorous desires, will be loyal to the cause they committed themselves to; resorting instead to merely using their power as a method to fill their own pockets, making their own lives more luxurious. These fears are not unfound; the attitude and policies of some of the feudal lords that are found in the Sindh region clearly follows this very pattern. The political stunts and impassioned speeches calling for separate cultural identity may be nothing more than a façade for much less noble reasons.
Despite all this, one can argue that the division of the provinces will pave the path to better, smoother management of the country by the government. Hypothetically, this would be an ideal solution to smoothing out the wealth and development inequalities that plague our country. In the real world however, such progress would be bogged down by several obstacles such as beuracatic corruption and lack of financial backing. Another, more feasible, substitute for this proposal is to grant more power to the already existing grass-root level governing bodies.
Providing these district governments with increased administrative strength will, in essence, have the same benefits as that of creating new provinces. The difference between these two routes is that the latter would not require the entire constitution of Pakistan to be uprooted nor will it incur heavy costs during its implementation. Moreover ethnic conflicts that seem so inevitable with the creation of new provinces will also be avoided, allowing the nation to focus its attention on more pressing matters.
Pakistan already finds itself in perilous waters; juggling financial problems along with ongoing war with international and national terrorists as its most urgent issues; as Soherwodi and Khattak analyze: “Pakistan is currently passing through the most volatile phase of her life. If the issue of creating newer provinces is given more air, it may blow out of proportion, and would endanger the very fabric of the country” (3). Sometime when Pakistan maintains a sure foothold in the world, it may be possible to look at a future with more provinces without such fear, scrutiny and apprehension.
Till that time however, the constitution does not require any change as we cannot afford the inner chaos that will accompany the act of creating new provinces; economic failures, ethnic conflicts and riots propelled by the self-serving politicians. Instead we should focus on fortifying our roots, strengthening the foundation upon which this country was built and praying for a brighter future.
Address by Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah at Lahore Session of Muslim League, March, 1940 (Islamabad: Directorate of Films and Publishing, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of Pakistan, Islamabad, 1983), pp. 5-23
Ahmer, Moonis. “Challenge of new provinces.” Dawn.com Dawn, 29 Jan 2013. Web. 18 Oct 2016.
Pakistan Institute of Development Economics. Khattak, Naeem-ur-Rehman, Iftikhar Ahmad and Jangraiz Khan. “Fiscal Decentralisation in Pakistan” The Pakistan Development Review 49.4 (2010): 419-436. Print.
Soherwordi, Syed Hussain Shaheed and Shahid Ali Khattak. “THE CREATION OF NEW PROVINCES IN PAKISTAN AND ITS IMPLICATIONS FOR AN INTEGRATED COUNTRY“ J.R.S.P 51.1 (2014): 139-155. Print.
Wirsing, Robert G. “Ethnicity And Political Reform in Pakistan” Asian Affairs 15.2 (1988): 67-83. Print.
Zulfqar, Saman. “POLITICS OF NEW PROVINCES IN PAKISTAN: PROSPECTS AND CHALLENGES” IPRI Journal 12.2 (2012): 146-152. Print.