Punjabis must choose

Anwar Aziz Chaudhry

The provincial demarcation of our federation is not conducive to amity. The real facts of the division of people on the basis of geographical, ethnic, cultural and linguistic factors are not reflected in the artificial boundaries of provinces drawn by colonial rulers, incompetent bureaucrats and short-sighted politicians. The result is that none of these units feel that they have a fair deal.
We should not make a province or sub-command area that has too many resources and a large periphery, because then the province will overpower the state. Provinces were always designed around a “core area,” which had certain economic advantages. Make a province with more than one core area, or with a few core areas, and it will start attracting men, material, enterprise and knowledge and surely deprive other provinces of their indigenous growth. Slowly but surely it will become the tail that wags the dog, the state. Therefore, the demarcation of provinces is used to bring the core areas into balance, and not to make some sub-command regions overpowering.

The second principle which history has proved time and again in the demarcation of sub-command areas is, do not lump together in one province two or more distinct people who do not want to live together, or who want their separate identities to be safeguarded.

The chief example is the former East Pakistan. The elite of West Pakistan, the army, the bureaucrats and others believed themselves to be superior and the sole arbitrators for the whole of Pakistan. They were not willing to give the Bengalis even their language. They happily committed the crime of making four provinces of Pakistan as West Pakistan and further to declare West Pakistan equal to East Pakistan, although the latter had a larger number of Pakistanis. What happened as a result of this attitude had to happen.

Many countries of the world have redrawn the boundaries of their provinces, firstly to distribute the natural advantages equitably among the population units and secondly to satisfy their longing for having meaningful participation in the decisions of their destiny. What India did in Assam what it has done with regard to Punjab its troubles in the north-east will become manageable.

If these two principals stand the test of logic and historical experience, then they should be applied to our beloved country too, as soon as possible.

Punjab is too powerful, with 56 per cent of the population. It supplies the overwhelming majority in the bureaucracy. It has an almost total sway in the army and is the main producer in agriculture. It is dominant in every field and is getting more and more dominant. It can even form a government at the centre without taking any other province on board.

Who will bell the cat? The leaders of Punjab have to decide whether they want Pakistan or Punjab. There can be and should be discussion and a broad agreement among the people of Punjab on having three or four provinces in the territory.

The province of Balochistan could be split among Pathans and Baloch, with Quetta as the capital of both their areas, like Chandigarh for the Indian states of Punjab and Haryana. There should be new provinces consisting of the present FATA and the Northern Areas.

Every small province has seething anger that spills over in separatist sentiments. In some places we have actual insurgency. All this is because of a feeling of overwhelming inequality, from which there is no escape except through revolt. Then we complain of interference from outsiders. Intervention gets invited when there are differences within a country.

Imagine a Pakistan with ten or 12 provinces, all almost equal in population or resources, and each representing a homogeneous group. This will make the federal government strong because of its central position.

If Pakistan is to have a respectable place in the family of nations, it has to get educated and industrialised at a greater speed of China, India and Brazil. We cannot do this without sub-dividing the provinces and thereby stopping our cribbing.

The writer served as a federal minister in the cabinets of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Mohammed Khan Junejo

 Source: The News, 26/8/2008

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