Divide, unite and rule efficiently

In South Asia on 6. August 2011 at 14:52

New provinces are again on the lips of Pakistan’s mainstream politicians, adding one problem to the heavy pot of problems this young nation has to solve. Most notably are members of the governmental PPP who have been vocal for creating a Southern Punjab province. The main opposition party PML-N has also lately followed up the demand, but the signals from the leadership are mixed as many leaders from north Punjab fear of losing influence in the new province.

The former military backed PML-Q which recently joined the government coalition has early on been vocal in its demand for new provinces. Not only do they demand a southern Punjab province, but also one for the Hindko people bordering to Kashmir naming it Hazara. The PML-N has echoed this demand. The main propagator from the N-camp Makhdoom Javed Hashmi who recently got elected senior vice-president of the party has even hinted the wish for four provinces of Punjab (reduced from 16 provinces!).

MQM the dominant party in the coastal city of Karachi (and on-off coalition partner) represents the Urdu-speaking Muhajir community in the Sindh province. The local Sindhi speakers feel sidelined by Muhajirs dominance in Karachi and the second biggest city Hyderabad in the province. During Nawaz Sharif’s first stint as Prime Minister (1990-1993) he along with the Army launched a major military operation (Operation Clean-up 1992-1994) in Karachi. The involvement was justified by fabricated maps of a proposed Jinnahpur state which allegedly the MQM wanted to carve out of Karachi. Although the whole Jinnahpur theory was proven wrong by the army itself, there are estimates of several thousand deaths and missing persons as a result of this operation. At present the PML-N leader Shahbaz Sharif, Nawaz Sharif’s younger and more pragmatic brother has hinted that If Punjab is to be divided into two provinces so should Sind (suggesting Karachi as one province for the Muhajirs). His remarks only helped putting more fuel on the ethnic and religious tension in the province and the death stricken metropolis, Karachi.

The demands and wishes can be lined up till eternity without having any basis. Yet the strongest as most legitimate demand is that of a Seraiki province carved out from dividing the mammoth Punjab province in two pieces. Provinces based on language and culture as that proposed for the Seraiki belt will be an acceptable solution and have good chances of getting support from the parliament. Crippling Punjab will make the province seeking alliances for important matters among other provinces. Such is the case in India, where not one union state dominates the parliament. Such was the case in Pakistan when it had an eastern wing, for the balance, at least in theory.

A future Seraiki province will according to some maps include the following districts of Punjab: Mianwali, Khushab, Sargodha, Jhang, Toba Tek Singh, Sahiwal, Pakpattan, Vehari, Khanewal, Bhakkar, Layyah, Dera Ghazi Khan, Muzaffardagh, Multan, Lodhran, Rajanpur, Rahim Yar Khan, Bahawalnagar and Bahawalpur. From Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa the districts of Dera Ismail Khan and Frontier Region Tank of FATA is also suggested but is not likely to be voted by Peshawar Assembly. It is not sure if Lahore will allow such a big breakaway, the districts from Mianwali till Pakpattan will be disputed, but what was before known as Bahawalpur princely state and what comprises Multan and surrounding areas are for sure Seraiki speaking areas. Multan will in this case be the provincial capital which will boost up the industry and importance of the city. Lesser distance between the districts and the capital will also result in an effective administration. The new Province will be a balancing factor in order to keep the provinces at check when it comes to water sharing, NFC award and intra provincial crop trading

Surely one province is the most Pakistan needs of now. But reorganisations will be necessary for the other provinces. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the first Home Minister of India initiated the States Reorganisation Act of 1956. The aim was to integrate the several hundred princely states with the federal structure of states and territories. Pakistan never got such opportunity because of its political crises from early on and made matters worse by the one-unit scheme which united all territories and provinces into one western and one eastern state. When Bangladesh ceded away in 1970, the then dictator General Yahya Khan Qizilbash hastily mapped new provinces which have survived till date. The process of integrating former princely states and tribal areas has been almost at halt. Therefore, it is about time, high time, that Pakistan puts forth one reorganisation act in order to fulfill a job which should have been done decades ago.

Pakistan ethnic map

Some suggestions of what the reorganisations act could include are the following:

  • Carving of a South Punjab / Seraiki Province with the provincial capital in Multan.
  • Renaming Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to simply Pakhtunkhwa as Khyber is just a political compromise and not a reflection of the Hindko people’s wishes which was put in place because of PML-N and Q. In addition, Khyber tribal agency is populated by Pashtun’s and not Hindkos and therefore it seems quite illogical to keep this name.
  • The move to create a Hazara province for the Hindko people of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa should be scrapped. The districts of Abbottabad, Battagram, Haripur, Kohistan and Mansehra which are suggested to form Hazara are alone not big enough in size or population to form a separate province with a separate government. The cost of such move will be higher than the good earned from it.
  • So should the move for a separate Bahawalpur Province be quelled. Bahawalpur Princely State was during independence probably the most advanced divisions of Pakistan. This was due to its ruler’s commitment to education, infrastructure and effective revenue gathering. A Seraiki province needs to include such territories to their areas in order to not only gain from its history, but also get influenced by it.
  • Balochistan should get means necessary to enforce governmental writ on its territories and start engaging in projects to build up infrastructure so the poverty stricken people do not feel compelled to fight for a separate homeland. The baluch territory in Sindh west of Indus river should also be on the table for land swaps with Balochistan.
  • Balochistan PATA (Provincially Administered Tribal Areas, it being Zhob, Loralai, Kohlu and Dera Bugti Districts in addition to Dalbandin Tehsil of Chagai District) territories should be suggested to be integrated with Pakhtunkhwa. The criteria can be the location on the map (how close it is to Pakhtunkhwa) and if Pashto is spoken widely in the named districts.
  • Pakhtunkhwa itself has its own PATA and FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) territories. Governmental control is limited and both development projects and tax collection is difficult. If authorities in Islamabad and Peshawar cannot ensure proper infrastructure, school and health facilities and subsequent jobs and investment then tax income for the province and the federal state will remain nil. One idea is to make one separate province in Pakistan’s northern areas comprising Gilgit-Baltistan, Azad Kashmir, PATA-territory of Pakhtunkhwa (Chitral, Upper and Lower Dir and Swat) and Hazara districts mentioned earlier. These units together will form a strong force in the parliament and be of significance due to its location both for international trade and human development. Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan are on paper autonomous regions (even considered separate states), but being realistic, Pakistan does control this territory and should for the sake of development and equality before the law incorporate these regions under Islamabad’s political and legislative control. The proposed Northern Province consists of various Dardic ethnic groups as well as languages. The religious and ethnic mixture in this area is known for its harmony and tolerance and should become strength in order to unite these people in the hilly north under one administration. The capital will most likely be in Muzaffarabad.
  • FATA territories which consist Bajaur, Mohmand, Khyber, Orakzai, North and South Waziristan and Kurram Agenzy in addition to the Frontier Regions of Peshawar, Kohat, Bannu, Lakki Marwat, Tank and Dera Ismail Khan should be integrated to Pakhtunkhwa. This in order to let the constitution and all the rights which follow it can be enforced upon the war torn tribal belt. Pashto speaking districts in Punjab such as parts of Dera Ghazi Khan can also be suggested to be part of the new setup.
  • Islamabad Capital Territory is growing as every other national capital. It is suggested that the Rawalpindi District donates some Tehsils such as Taxila and Rawal so the national Capital can be built further on and keep up with the population pace. The eastern Tehsils of Rawalpindi, namely Kalhuta, Kotli Sattian and Murre can easily be incorporated in the proposed Northern Province as the lingo and ethnic mixture do have a connection to Azad Kashmir and to the Pahari language.
  • As for the Muhajirs and the concept of a Muhajir province the issue should be closed down immediately. MQM, which was previously named Muhajir Quami Movement has since the 90s changed its name to Muttahida Quami Movement (Muttahida means united), the party is hinting to be a federal force and wants to recruit and is appealing to non-muhajirs as well. This movement has spread not only in Sindh but also in urban Punjab. Karachi will not become a province, but Sindh have two districts, Kashmore and Gotkhi which have a sizeable seraiki population. These territories will also be worth considering when a future province is carved.

Yet it is important to note that new provinces, name-changes, swapping of territory between provinces and changing of territorial status for tribal areas will require a constitutional amendment. The amendment requires two thirds majority in the parliament (National Assembly, Senate and the Provincial Assemblies). With no party in clear majority, and opposition always eager to oppose every motion, it will not be easy to do this job if not all the major stakeholders get together for the common good. Still all the major parties will find some gains and some losses in a future proposed amendment. For example will the PML-N and Q factions get much influence in a Northern Province, while ANP will strengthen its base in Pakhtunkhwa and PPP will probably reduce its size in Lahore and increase it in Multan.

Six provinces, easy to remember, easy to govern and easy to work with. It is important to have the constitution and governmental writ in place for the whole of what is known as Pakistan and its patient inhabitants. But keep in mind, such reorganization will not end poverty, energy deficit, inflation, target- and untargeted killings, intolerance and terrorism. Political leaders should put together their brilliant heads to solve out those problems as well.

  1. […] Divide, unite and rule effectively […]

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