Tag Archives: Federalism

Federal Challenges to Polity: Sindh Perspective

jamichandioBy Jami Chandio

Since its inception in 1947, Pakistan has been faced with a crisis of federalism. Early decisions to centralize power deprived smaller provinces of their most pressing demands for joining the new state: increased national/provincial autonomy and the devolution of power. For six decades, the promise of federalism has eroded under the weight of unfettered military rule, imbalanced and undemocratic state structures, and the domination of all federal institutions by Punjab. With outside attention trained on Islamic insurgency, observers are missing the most crucial dynamic in Pakistani politics, that of declining inter-provincial harmony. The specter of separatist movements once again haunts Pakistan, which has been on the verge of becoming a failed state. To survive these existing crises, Pakistan must adopt further transformative constitutional reforms that limit the reach of the center to the fields of defense, foreign policy, currency and other inter-provincial matters. By restoring a balance of power both between the executive and legislative branches and between the center and the provinces, Pakistan can move a pivotal step closer to substantive democracy, participatory federalism and sustainable political stability.

Once partition was completed, the initial promises of autonomy and devolution of power went unfulfilled by Pakistan’s ruling elite. Critical decisions taken by the center concerning the ratification of constitutions and governing documents, the elevation of Urdu language, and the amalgamation of the provinces of west Pakistan into the One-Unit scheme in 1955 deprived the provinces of the authority and position in the federation they expected upon joining the union. Federalism was bankrupted purposively, culminating in the ‘liberation’ of East Pakistan and the subjugation of the smaller provinces to the ruling Punjab-Urdu speaking nexus.

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A political revolution

By Rasul Bakhsh Rais

The passage of the 18th Amendment has set into motion, a remarkable, though slow, political revolution in restructuring Pakistan’s polity. This is far more momentous than restoring the parliamentary character of the constitution, or even granting provincial autonomy. The word autonomy cannot capture the true letter and spirit of the new federalism that is unfolding before us. Rather, it is about remodelling Pakistan’s political system according to a new principle of distribution of power, with the provinces as new centres of authority, power and resources.

Thinking of provinces as new centres of power and laying something down into the constitution to make them powerful, runs counter to both, the colonial tradition of supervising political evolution, and the centralised state and nation-building strategy followed for the past six decades. It goes to the credit of political parties and their leadership that they have realised that the old ways of governing Pakistan have failed and they needed to give a greater part of the power and resources of the centre, which had grown arrogant, paternalistic and insensitive to the provinces.

This structural change in the political order has created new conditions in which some groups and sections are bound to lose, while others will make gains. Who loses and who gains is an issue that will greatly impact the ongoing process of shifting power to the provinces, as the old, deeply entrenched political and bureaucratic groups fight to the last to save their little turfs and fiefdoms. In our case, the federal bureaucracy is the loser, as it cannot hope to rule the provinces under the guise of national integration, solidarity and security anymore. It will take a great deal of internal reflection on the part of the federal bureaucracy, as well as time, to adjust to the power shift. …

Read more : The Express Tribune

Federalism and Democracy – Pakistan’s Experience and Challenges

Forwarded by Khalid Hashmani (McLean, Virginia, USA)
“The breakup of Pakistan would be a costly and destabilizing development that can still be avoided, but only if the United States and other foreign donors use their enormous aid leverage to convince Islamabad that it should not only put the 1973 Constitution back into effect, but amend it to go beyond the limited degree of autonomy it envisaged. Eventually, the minorities want a central government that would retain control only over defense, foreign affairs, international trade, communications and currency. It would no longer have the power to oust an elected provincial government, and would have to renegotiate royalties on resources with the provinces.”

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Federalism, Decentralization, and Provincial Autonomy in Pakistan- A meeting with Jami Chandio in Washington DC

Report by: Khalid Hashmani, USA

EVENT: Luncheon Meeting with Mr. Jami Chandio in Washington DC
DATE & TIME: Sunday, January 25, 2009 at 1:30 PM Sharp VENUE: Aabshar Restaurant, 6550 Backlick Road, Springfield, VA 22150
Mr. Chandio is currently doing work with Washington DC-based The National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The focus of his work on the studying of the problems of federalism and prospects for provincial autonomy, including constitutional mechanisms that can be used to prevent, manage, and resolve intra-state conflict in Pakistan.

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