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. …
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