January 20, 2008

Pakistan's crumbling federalism

By Senator Sanaullah Baloch

Ms Bhutto and Nawab Bugti's assassination prolong detention of Akhter Mengal, military operation; disappearances of Sindhi and Baloch political activists and intimidation and harassment of political representatives of smaller provinces have raised many concerns on issue of political co-existence. Where an ethnic group is holding enormous control of civil-military power and employing unpopular policies against the underprivileged provinces by use of overt and covert force.
Internationally Pakistan lacks a soft political image, but internal situation is fragmented and disturbing. In early years Pakistan's failure to establish a workable federal system resulted in breakup of the country in 1971. Once again Islamabad's failure to realize the growing dissatisfaction in the provinces is gradually heading towards a disaster.

The political system in Pakistan is on the verge of a collapse. The unpopular and widely rejected decisions and methods used by Islamabad against minority provinces have played a key role in deteriorating federal-provincial relations. National minorities and powerless provinces are totally voiceless in the system. Ethnic anxiety is on the rise in many parts of the country. Constitutional
guarantees have been set-aside by mere executive orders to favour and support a particular class and an ethnic group. President Pervez Musharraf made scores of promises including the undertaking of provincial harmony through major onstitutional reforms in his first televised speech. But his eight years of autocratic rule and hostile policies towards national minority provinces has resulted in increase of centre-provincial rivalry. In the last eight years countless constitutional amendments and presidential ordinances have been introduced to secure one man rule. But there is hardly any achievement of that has strengthened the federation or people's confidence on the state system.

Federalism as a political system has many sensitivities where authority, sovereignty and power are shared constitutionally between sub-units and a centre. The challenges to the stability of the system depend on institutions not in individuals. Increasingly federal government has grown beyond its constitutional bounds; national minorities have been systematically excluded from policy making and governance. The regime also took a number of controversial decisions unilaterally. The Pakistan army was sent to Balochistan to suppress Baloch demands of political empowerment. Junta also failed to finalise the mandatory National Finance Commission Award to fairly distribute the financial resources among the federating units.

Central government in certain cases has the right to lawfully increase its influence in certain provincial matters, like regulating businesses and industries, securing civil and political rights and for the provision of social services. But in Pakistan it has become a routine practice by the regime to undermine province's authority, taking extra constitutional steps and disregard the sovereignty of the province and its citizens in pretext of so-called national security and maintaining law and order.

Contrary to the concept of federalism, citizen participation has been limited in Pakistan; they are systematically excluded from the state affairs. Political victimization, torture, disappearances; harassment is widely used to limit people's participation in political affairs of the federation. However federalism allows and increases the opportunities for citizen participation in public decision-making; through deliberation and representation in both sub-unit and central bodies.

In a federation, provinces and groups feel confident and they are not subject to any humiliation due to their identity. But for political gains the present regime is used to disgrace national minorities through controlled media. A huge media campaign was launched against Baloch people during 2006. Underestimating the long-term effects, this short-term strategy to defame opponents and population of less
populated province was quite successful creating division within the citizens of federation.

Overruling the fundamentals of the federation, all public related policies are controlled by the central authority. It's not over-centralisation which many politician claims, but its overall-centralisation of state which has resulted in political disorder in the country.Geographical unity of a state is very much dependent on its ethical and political institutions. In a multi-ethnic country government could only maintain and assert its legitimacy through political mainstreaming. Physical violence and use of force has further complicated and
destabilised the relations between different groups rather than unifying them. Multinational federalism has been found to be the best political practice to limit national and ethnic conflicts.

The need for true federalism is much needed in countries where there is political strife and conflict of interest among the ethnic groups.Federalism has also been proved as a major source of promoting democracy and human rights. It also minimises coercion, but unitary and authoritarian rule and policies increases the risk of conflict among the dissimilar population and groups.

Some of the Asian countries have moved forward to achieve political stability through asymmetric federalism, but many countries are lagging behind to gain desire political stability. After the fall of East Timor, the Indonesian government agreed granting substantial autonomy to the Aceh people in the 2005, in a bid to end long standing conflict in resource rich Aceh region. Philippine also accelerated
the process of federalisation in 2005, to calm down the unease relation with ethnic and religious minorities.

Top policy makers and champions of national security in Pakistan need to rethink about their policies to increase people's participation in the system. Participatory democracy and true federalism is the way out of quagmire. They should realise that without a fair political system it's impossible to govern and keep unified a multi-ethnic country like Pakistan.

The writer is a member of the Senate of Pakistan

E-mail: balochbnp@gmail.com


Anonymous said...

Indeed a good piece. Sana Jan you are great, and the only hope for raising Baloch voices through different channels. When will balochi's learn to respect their leadership than blaming all the time, and doing nothing themselves. Balochi's should wake up in light of growing divisions between them for which they are solely responsible. Else they will never get there!

ameeri said...

Dear Sana: Words of wisdom have effect on those who have wisdom. But a brainless person like Mr. Musharraf has closed his eyes and ears and determined not to listen to any word of reason. As in Hindi saying "you are playing music in front of a buffalo" (bhains ke saamne ban bajaanaa). He has support of Mr. Bush who claims to bring democracy in the world. In the mean time he is helping Musharraf the enemy of democracy and justice. This policy shows the double standards of Mr. Bush. While Mr. Musharraf has the backing of a supper power and the petro-dollars of Arabs why he should listen to your advice. Noutak Baloch

sanjay deshpande said...

Hon Environment Minister Sir…

Dear Mr Jairam Ramesh,

Hon Minister of Environment & Forests

First of all let me congratulate u, as for the 1st time we got a minister for such a sensitive dpt who has enough knowledge base to handle it & the passion too! Now its up to delivering, that time will decide.

I am writing this after going through an article in Sanctuary magazine.

I am Sanjay Deshpande, from Pune. I am an civil engineer & have specialization in environments yet by profession i am a Builder i.e. developer! But urbanization is a fact & housing is need of the time, i try to strike the balance between Concrete jungles & Natural jungles is all i can say. I have formed a cell of Environment at our builders association level as to make the developers aware is the imp task along with the customers. Eco housing is my hobby & i try to do as much i can on any of the available platform & that's why when i got this mail id i thought of writing u, though i even don't know whether this will reach to u ever! I go to schools, colleges, ngo's & try to share whatever i have learned as this is one subject which one may read in books but have to learn in field! I have worked for forests, military & each experience has become a case study in itself.

Sir, right from the tree cutting issue, to river pollutions in the cities to alarmingly increasing imbalance of biodiversity ,many issues needs proper policy & not just emotional decision for which our rulers are famous for. Right now there isn't a single body which governs or takes responsibility of environment in the city. The present policies are mostly out dated or designed on the assumptions that all the developers are thief's ( true at some extent ) & to avoid development than to to make a proper balanced development. Similar situation about forest dept, so many obstacles that when i was working in Ranthambore forest the concerned in charge over there was afraid of having a boar well within core area when that was the only source of water to make the animals around survive in hot summer.

sanjay deshpande said...

in continuation Sanjay Deshpande....
Our country is large & probably the most diversified , speaking along scales of Geography, Geology, Culture & Economy. And all these four factors decides the faith of environment of a locality. For example you cant have the same rain water harvesting techniques which you will use in Rajasthan where rainfall if 5" to 6 " per year, in city like Pune ( where i reside) which has rain fall of nearly 29" per year. Then we need to consider their years of life style of using water & economic conditions to sustain the systems we will be using for treating or reusing the water! And this is just one issue of water we are talking about, there are hundreds of such to dealt with, region wise. When we talk about any Metro we just think about Public Transportation, Water & Cheaper Homes & Slums! Is that all a city isn't just human beings around, it’s the every animal who lives there & trees too. Agreed I myself am a builder & know the importance of proper housing, but are we restricting the word housing to just human beings? Then who will take care of all the other living species around! As a city doesn’t mean just human beings within, it’s for all those who resides within, even the trees ! The trees are bound to give the way for homes but then who will give way for new trees & how? Today literally ever Municipal Corporation have different ideas but same DC rules & the change takes so long that the cause vanishes till the change in rules come. For e.g the development plan of my Pune city, it’s nearly 8 years now it hasn't final, then how one can assure proper Environmental control if we don't have the Development plan in itself ! Now, people will ask what’s the connection between D.P & Environment! Well for the very basics, we can start planting trees categorically along the proposed road from right now so when the traffic will increase we could have the trees grown & ready to absorb the emitting CO2 ! Similar situation about the power ( electric) demand of the city, till we don’t know which area will be under what use, how we are going to plan the power network in the city, which again usually laid along the roads! As well the receiving stations & substations space allocation for proper distribution is must & which is part of the DP. These are just few smallest examples. And we are not being able to do it is a fact.

sanjay deshpande said...

in continuation for Hon Envo Minister ....By Sanjay Deshpande
About forests also, it’s the surrounding people's approach towards the forests which is going to decide the faith of that forest. Seating in Metros we won’t be able to decide the policy about the Tigers which are reducing each day. The issues of individual forests, like any urban city has to be planned region wise & a draft plan with dead lines to follow has to be prepared. Right now we have Tiger Task Force since last three /four years but what’s the actual outcome? I don't doubt the sincerity of the task force members but repeatedly Tigers are reducing in numbers is also a fact, rather the force seems to be focusing on Tigers & not jungles around the tiger. As the tigers only are not going to survive, its the whole chain of species right from its preys to human being around i.e tribes, which needs to be preserved then only the tiger will survive. And this chain deals with habitat conservation so again we end up at square one of Cities vs Forests issue & who rules what!

And again it's not just Tiger, as today it's the tiger who is taking the leash, tomorrow it will be Panther then even the Lomdi or Fox will get vanished. Ultimately they don't have hordes of Karyakarta's running the rallies or Neta's to take care of their intrests, It's people like u & me who have to look after them.

I know we can’t have all the solutions overnight leave apart the results but at least try in systematic manner & let’s go the root level & with wide open view. Any assistance from my side will be at your service is all I can say.

Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Group,Pune
Chairman Envo Power cell, PBAP,Pune

Cell 98220 37109


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