Mr Muhammad Hamza Tanvir graduated from COMSATS University. He has a keen interest in international relations and regional politics.
The burgeoning demand for new provinces and states on an ethnic and linguistic basis even in the 21st century is proving many sociologists like Max Weber wrong who held the point of view that ethnicity and nationalism would ultimately vanish after the surge of modernization, globalization, and industrialization.
India, like most countries, faced the issue of new provinces and so appointed the Linguistic Provinces Commission in 1948 under S.K. Dhar. The commission advised forming the new provinces merely on administrative viability and development potential, spurning the idea of reorganizing the state boundaries on a linguistic basis. Rancor over this report led to the formation of another committee on the very issue which, too, rejected the idea.
Contrarily, the Indian government was coerced to create the state of Andhra Pradesh on linguistic footings in 1953 after the death of Potti Sriramulu in a hunger strike for this cause. In 1953, the Government of India entrusted the task of the reorganization of state boundaries to the Fazal Ali Commission, which recommended that state boundaries be readjusted to form 14 states and 3 union territories. This report further led to the reorganization of states in 1956.
The Case in Pakistan
Pakistan is no exception to ethnic politics as it has been facing such movements since its inception. Although the country itself was created on Muslim nationalism and it had cost the lives of many of the Muslims of the subcontinent to get a separate homeland for themselves, linguistic and ethnic multipolarity rose and sowed the seeds of hatred in less than a decade when Urdu was declared as the national language of the country.
It was deemed unjust by the Eastern wing of the country, and Bengalis from this region started demanding the equal status of Bengali as that of Urdu — the Urdu-Bengali controversy. This controversy proved to be the rudimentary ingredient for the causes of the secession of East Pakistan and thus the creation of a new country based on Bengali nationalism.
Moreover, the people of Sindh, NWFP (now KPK), and Baluchistan have also felt deprived of their identity when General Ayub Khan — the then President of the country — established ”One Unit” to reduce administrative costs and provincial prejudices; this was gauged by East Pakistanis as an attempt to counterbalance the numerical strength of Bengalis.
Balochi also rose up against this One Unit policy under the leadership of Nawaz Nauroz Khan, but General Ayub Khan quelled this insurgency by sending 1000 troops to Baluchistan. Pakistan, to date, faces many movements demanding separate provinces based on ethnicities like the Saraikis, Hazaras, Mohajirs, and those in Bahawalpur.
Demand for Hazara Province ascended after NWFP’s changed to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) through the 18th amendment. These movements mostly claim that small provinces can usher development and will be easy to administer.
Does the Constitution Allow the Creation of New Provinces?
The constitution of Pakistan, unlike the constitution of India, which permits the Indian parliament to establish new provinces through simple legislation according to Articles 2, 3, and 4, does not allow for the creation of new provinces. Article 216 of the 1956 constitution provided that the limits of provinces could not be altered unless the provincial assembly of that province passed a resolution by a simple majority.
Following the declaration of Martial Law on October 7, 1958, General Ayub Khan gave his constitution in 1962 based on 2 provinces instead of the original five, Article 210, which limited the National Assembly from passing any bill regarding alteration of provincial boundaries unless the provincial assembly of that province voted by a two-thirds majority. Such was done to give protection to the comparatively less populated West Pakistan.
After his abdication, his successor, General Yahya Khan, restored all the four provinces of West Pakistan by enacting the West Pakistan Dissolution Order. Thereafter, Article 239(4) of the Constitution of Pakistan, 1973, gave the same protection to new provinces as was awarded to West Pakistan by Article 210 of the 1962 Constitution. This article is merely about the alteration of present boundaries, not about creating a new province. Even the merger of FATA to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa only altered the boundaries of an existing province, not create a new one.
So, from a constitutional point of view, the debate on creating new provinces is pointless. Political parties knowing the constitutional travails still clamor for new provinces only to lure their voters while they are one of the colossal hindrances in carving new provinces out of the existing provinces where they hold majority seats. Recently, the South Punjab Secretariat has been made functional and people of the region are seeing it as a beacon of hope.
Are New Provinces Panacea to the Sufferings of the Neglected?
Smaller administrative units can assist ineffective administration and bring the governmental officials closer to the citizens. It will also mean the devolution of power and funds to the local level that can then be used as per the requirements of the localities. A strong local body system can also bring such changes; however, no political government lets the local bodies work properly since it erodes the power of MNAs and MPA and takes financial empowerment away from them.
In Punjab, most of the developed areas along Grand Trunk road from Rawalpindi to Lahore and South Punjab seem to be abandoned by the provincial government. The same is the case with the border areas in KPK. Thus, creating a new province can amend the pitiful situation of people living in far-flung areas of their respective provinces and help in easy accessibility of funds and services.
New infrastructure would be needed for the nascent provinces which will then lead to job opportunities thus mitigating poverty. New provinces can also abate the pressure on courts as new high courts could be formed for justice to be served swiftly. If the people of marginalized areas keep supporting the same corrupt political elite then the creation of new provinces can only have a trivial change in their living standards.
The creation of new provinces in Pakistan will result in the ramification of the National Financial Commission, the composition of the senate, the National Economic Council, and the Water Accord of 1991. It would also require amendments in Articles 1, 51, 59, 106(1), 175A, and Article 218 of Pakistan’s constitution. Devolution of power will also strengthen federation in a multi-ethnic society like Pakistan, but political will and public awareness are mandatory to take pragmatic steps.
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