The Case for More Provinces
There has been much talk over recent months of creating more provinces in Pakistan but there has been opposition to the proposal with equal measure. Realistically speaking, however, the time has come when the country must turn a new leaf, take a serious look at its administrative setup and find cogent ways of improving governance issues. This is the key to national cohesiveness and Pakistan making headway as a modern and progressive nation. It is obvious that the present system in the country, based on a single federal territory and four large provinces governed from four provincial capitals, has become cumbersome and ineffective in terms of governance. It may offer a large degree of ‘political’ advantage to certain concerned quarters, but it is clear that there is a lack of communication between each provincial capital and the rest of the province. The distance is increasingly creating a ‘disconnect’ between the provincial administration and the people. It is preventing the political rulers as well as the administrators from dispensing justice, protection and services to all citizens in an equitable manner – and this, in turn, is reflecting on their overall performance.
In order to maintain law and order more efficiently, to protect life and property, to dispense justice and to provide all services in a more practical manner, it would be judicious if the country were divided into at least 20 easily manageable administrative units. The units would be demarcated strictly on administrative lines and no consideration would be given to linguistic or ethnic divisions. Each unit would have its own capital, its own administrator/governor/chief minister and an Assembly under the Constitution of Pakistan (which would be accordingly amended), supported by a suitable administrative structure. Since the administrative unit would be smaller in terms of geographical size and total population and would be organized on lines of effective management, the government machinery would be in a much better position to ‘connect’ with the people and cater to their needs. In such a setup, the administrative unit would be mostly managed by local citizens – police, bureaucracy, judiciary, etc. The officials would be chosen from within the local population and would, thus, be closer to the ground realities. They would be able to cater to local needs in a more realistic manner. Local people would also have a greater sense of belonging to the area rather than those who are transferred from far-flung areas of the country.
There are many examples around the world where bigger administrative units have been broken into smaller ones to bring the provincial machinery closer to the people and make dispensation of administrative services easier and more effective. India, which is also a federal republic, comprises 29 states and seven union territories today; these units have their own elected governments for local administration. Similarly, the primary division in the United States of America is the state. The United States federal and state governments operate within a system of parallel sovereignty. When Nigeria had only 4 provinces, there were tribal clashes and bad governance issues. Today, it has more than 17 provinces, most of which were created just to make governance efficient and effective.
The feudal system and the feudal mindset is also a nasty thorn in the side of the administrative machinery in Pakistan. Perhaps having more administrative units would serve to water down the powers of the feudal lords in the rural areas as their fiefdoms would be cut down to size. This would also kill the ‘feudal’ mentality of those urban bigwigs who strut around with all their power paraphernalia. Surveys and studies have shown that the people at large do not find provincial governments and those who run these governments to be reasonably responsive in solving their problems. Local governments have been found to be more forthcoming in this respect though the whole local government apparatus in Pakistan has been messed up in recent years in the interest of political expediency. Therefore, when the administrative system is brought closer to the people through more units, it will effectively demonstrate how impotent large provincial bureaucracies are and how powerless or self-serving their very existence is. They should make way for smaller units so that governance is made more accessible to the people and more effective in terms of on-ground results.
Syed Jawaid Iqbal