Improve governance or create more provinces 18th Amendment

Speakers urge for creation of provinces on the basis of economic and administrative viability.


Creation of more provinces on the basis of economic and administrative viability will strengthen the federation and make governance easier for the respective provincial governments.

This proposal was put forward by a majority of speakers at the concluding day of a seminar on “Revisiting the 18th Constitutional Amendment”, held here on Wednesday. However, at least one of the speakers opposed the idea, asking the government to improve governance instead.

Academics, lawyers and bureaucrats gave their opinion on different aspects of the 18th Amendment at the seminar, organised by Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI) and Hanns Siedel Foundation.

“Creation of new provinces would strengthen the federation but can only be done with the consent of the units,”  Professor Razia Mussarat from Islamia University Bahawalpur said.

She added that the people of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa have already demonstrated that they will not tolerate creation of Hazara province on the basis of Hindko language. Similarly Sindhis would not accept ethno-linguistic division of the province. In Punjab, where Bahawalpur claims provincial status — on the basis of the promise that after dissolution of the one unit its former status would be restored — could substitute the demand for separate province which was ethnic based.

She proposed that Lahore and Multan could be made provinces on the basis of their economic and administrative viability.

Quaid-i-Azam University’s Distinguished Professor of Linguistics Dr Tariq Rehman supported Prof. Mussarat’s views and said, “As long as they stay within the federation, there was nothing wrong with creating new provinces.” New provinces are being demanded to secure power, justice and equitable share in resources, he added.

However, Hussain Shaheed Suharwardy of Peshawar University opposed the creation of new provinces. He said ethnic and linguistic forces were essential elements in the provincial integration and new provinces could not be carved out merely on the basis of economic and administrative viability. “Renaming Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa on ethnic basis was a blunder, as it would inspire similar aspirations in other parts of the country,” he maintained.

Suharwardy insisted that demand for new provinces was a result of poor governance. “People need easy access to atta, ghee and pulses, not new provinces.”

Barrister Shahid Hamid said, “In structuring a local government system the principle of devolution to the lowest level must be followed,” He noted that local governments have not been allowed to work. He criticized the local government systems introduced by both military dictators Zia and Musharraf as they aimed to strengthen the centre.

“A local school should be administered by a local council,” said Hamid, adding that non-party based elections of local bodies lead toward polarization and promote elite control over governance.

In his concluding remarks, Barrister Hamid also noted that among other good things that came with the 18th amendment of the constitution, the term “freely” after “minorities’ rights to exercise their religion” has been reinstated, which was deliberately omitted from the constitution by the military ruler General Ziaul Haq.

Political analyst Zafarullah Khan said, “One unit and the principle of parity is a cruel constitutional jokes for which the country had paid dearly”. He said that it was wrong to say that provinces were not ready to handle new responsibilities as this transition must be facilitated through creating a federal culture, reforming parties and strengthening provincial civil services. He said that only those projects should be undertaken at the federal level, which are supported by more than one province.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 30th, 2011.

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