A new social contract in Pakistan between the Pakistani Federation and its components
By Sikander Hayat
A few weeks back, I wrote an article about the necessity for more provinces in Pakistan and in response to that I received a lot of emails from you that it is not the issue of more provinces that will resolve the problems of Pakistan but making Pakistan a true federation will cure the ills of our country. I see this as a viable alternative solution and lately I have heard many notable politicians especially from Pakistan Muslim League (N) like Shahbaz Sharif and Khwaja Asif talking about the need for a new social contract in Pakistan where all six federal components namely Punjab, Sindh, Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Azad Kashmir & Northern Areas be given equal representation in Parliament and Senate and each provincial assembly have sweeping powers in terms of tax collection, spending and other issues. Federal government must only have its jurisdiction in Defence, Foreign affairs, Currency and Communications ( air, sea and land ports should be under federal jurisdiction as part of communications).
Apart from these four areas everything else should be under provincial jurisdiction.
Chief Minister of Punjab in Feb 2009 said while he was visiting Quetta ( Capital of Balochistan) and I quote “ I would support any new social contract if formed with consensus of all units which could strengthen the Federation and bring peace and harmony in the country. All the democratic political forces should sit together, share their problems and formulate new social contract which could be acceptable to everybody”.
Punjab has a lot to gain in this proposed new social contract between the people of Pakistan as most of all it will be able to absolve itself of the label of usurper of other provinces’ resources. Punjab can then go on and proper without feeling guilty and always being pulled back by others. Other provinces will benefit immensely because people living in these provinces will hold their leaders accountable instead of letting them blame Punjab for every ill.
Shahid Ilyas in his article in Pakistan Observer rights about the necessity of true federalism for Pakistan and starts by defining the core values of a federation “ At the base of federalism lies the recognition of the linguistic, cultural, historical and social diversity of the population of a state. Federalism serves two purposes at the same time. In certain aspects it allows the distinctive groups of the population to grow and prosper in their distinctive linguistic, cultural and social backgrounds. At the same time, it requires the same groups to cooperate in certain areas which serve them as a whole.
In other words, federalism is a social contract between different nationalities. Through a mechanism called constitution these groups agree to form a State and cooperate in certain areas of common interests, which should be looked after together at the centre, and in other areas to let each other alone for each group to look after their own interests at the fedrating units level.
A broadly agreed upon powers generally resting with the centre to be looked after by the representatives of the federating units jointly as equal partners include the federation’s foreign policy, its defence, its external trade and its communications. The rest stay with the federating units without interference, except in cases of emergency, by the centre.In Pakistan, the division of powers in the constitution is highly tilted in favor of the centre. The centre very frequently interferes in the provincial affairs. Other than that the centre appoints governers to the provinces which is against the federalism concept. Central bureaucrats are posted in the provinces where they interfere in the provincial affairs.
Pakistan needs a new social contract. The representatives of all the communities need to sit together and decide upon the way this country is going to be run in the future. The new social contract should see to it that the distinct identities of the various groups inhabiting this country are safeguarded, only necessary powers should stay with the centre, the army should be brought under strong civilian control, all communities should be sure that the office of the prime minister and the presidency will come in their hands also periodically and so on. Only with the real principles of federalism the state of Pakistan can be run. The military and other “centrist” forces need to realize this before things get out of control.”
You don’t have to agree in its entirety with these views but one thing is for sure that Pakistan cannot go doing business with its provinces in the same way.
Pakistan & The Provinces – The Question of Provincial Autonomy & Its Impact On Pakistan’s Future Prosperity
Balochistan - Troubles Of A Demographic Nature