The Case for More Prov­inces

Southasia - - COMMENT -

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

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