23 Jan 2018/Tuesday
The root cause of terrorism of Pakistan today is unbalanced structure of federation and federating units. Punjab alone accounts for 57.4% of the national population and only 26.7% of land area, whereas resource rich Balochistan is little less than half the Pakistan’s size but has only 5.1% of the total population. Given the larger share in population, Punjab has always been a major beneficiary of National Finance Commission (NFC) awards based on population alone. This has been the root cause for disenchantment of general public with the ruling polity.
From 2001-2012, Sindh has a dominant position in average federal tax collection amounting to 65.5% of total taxes, followed by Punjab at 29.8% and K-P and Balochistan receiving 3.3% and 1.4%, respectively. Certainly, these statistics do not reflect revenue generation, nonetheless Sindh’s dominance is due to Karachi being the only port city and the country’s economic hub which alone accounts for 95% of tax collection from Sindh. Provincial own-sources tax revenue is roughly 6% in consolidated tax collection and provincial governments in Pakistan have a tendency to substitute their own-source tax revenue with federal transfers from NFC. The essence is that the revenue earned by hard working provinces is shared unequally by state of Punjab whose only qualification to get maximum share of the national revenue is its population base.
Inter- and intra-regional poverty statistics reveal glaring inter-regional differences. For instance, Punjab and Balochistan, central and south Punjab, urban and rural Sindh have unmatched differences in infrastructure and human development indicators. Although, NFC 2010 allocated divisible pool resources based on multiple criteria, including population, poverty and backwardness, revenue generation and collection and inverse population density, population is still an overriding consideration which is again favourable for Punjab given its relative share in total population.
As of today, districts in Pakistan have reached a total of 123, which is more than twice the number of districts at the time of independence. If new districts can be formed, then what’s the excuse for not forming new provinces? Specially, when federating units are too heterogeneous and make the federation unbalanced in terms of political and economic stability. The academic narrative and principles of federation also advocate federations with administrative units of balance and homogeneous characteristics.
In past many times attempts have been made by various political parties to address this problem. In Election 2013, Party manifesto of the ruling party Pakistan Muslim League (N) promised to set up a high-powered commission to design criteria and modalities for the creation of new provinces. PML-N showed its resolve to make Bahawalpur, South Punjab and Hazara new provinces. However, this plan remained on papers and now Pakistan is due for next General Elections this year.
If we go deep into the problem, the invisible Pakistan Army’s hand will become visible, in not allowing the division of unmanageable provinces of Pakistan. The reason is that, the Army too is dominated by Punjabis and Punjab as one province plays a major role in keeping the Army together. Any division of Punjab province will also divide the Pakistan Army. Further, divisions of Pakistan will also lead to heightened aspirations of its masses. Army fears that it will not be able to keep the Nation State of Pakistan as one piece and therefore does not approve the provincial division of Pakistan.