THE BALUCH independence movement; the Kalabagh dam; and until very recently, the NFC award. These are the issues which characterise Pakistan’s fractious federation.
The problem can be expressed in one statement; strong centre, weak provinces. In Pakistan, the essence of the federation was forgotten after a succession of bureaucrats and military generals increased the power of the centre so much so it resulted in the partition of Pakistan and the creation of Bangladesh.
Pakistan was made on the basis of a federation. The first of Mr Jinnah’s fourteen points was that ‘any future constitution should be federal with the power resting with the provinces.’
The Lahore Resolution clearly stated that the Muslim majority areas of India ‘should be grouped to constitute independent states in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign.’
Since 1947, the government began to strengthen the centre without regard to the provinces. This culminated in the One Unit Scheme of Mr Iskander Mirza which amalgamated the independent identities of all the provinces into one. Apart from this, forcing one language onto a country with more than five widely spoken languages was folly of the highest order.
We must understand that Pakistan is made up of multiple peoples, each having their own culture, language and tradition. Failure to tolerate and accept differences is what leads to extremism, xenophobia and unrest in society.
Embracing this diversity as a source of strength is the only way forward. We must understand that forcing smaller provinces to the bidding of larger ones is a sure road to our own destruction.
Unless full provincial autonomy is granted, I fear we will witness multiple nations rising from the embers of Pakistan. There are places in Baluchistan where the national flag is not raised and 14th August is a day of mourning. This should be a warning to Islamabad that strong undercurrents of nationalism are brewing.
Full provincial autonomy, as envisaged by the 1973 constitution, strengthening of democratic institutions and the just and equitable distribution of resources, is the only way to avert this looming crisis.
An independent judiciary and agreement in the NFC formula are, no doubt, steps in the right direction. But more needs to be done urgently before it is too late.
One ’71 is more than enough for any country.