ince its inception in 1947, Pakistan has faced a crisis of federalism. Repeated decisions
to centralize power have deprived smaller provinces of their most pressing demands at
the time they agreed to join the Pakistani state: increased provincial autonomy and the
devolution of power. For six decades, the promise of federalism has eroded under the weight
of unfettered military rule, unbalanced and undemocratic state structures, and the domination
of all institutions by the ruling Punjabi-Mohajir elite. With international attention focused on
the Islamist insurgency, another crucial dynamic in Pakistani politics—the decline of inter-
provincial harmony—has gone unnoticed. The rise of separatist movements, like the steady
advance of Islamic fundamentalism, once again haunts the country, bringing with it the specter
of failed statehood. To survive these existential crises, Pakistan
must adopt constitutional reforms that limit the center’s authority
to four areas of national concern: defense, foreign policy,
currency, and communications. Governance must be strengthened
by delegating greater power over education, resource exploitation,
and taxation to provincial governments. By restoring a balance of
power both between the executive and legislature, and between
the center and the provinces, Pakistan can move a vital step closer
to political stability and genuine democracy.
—Jami Chandio, April 30, 2009
Part I: Introduction and Historical Context
Part II: Issues of Federalism
Part III: Recommendations
State Crisis in Pakistan
Grieving in Balochistan
Armed patrols in Pashtunkhwa (NWFP)
Sindh: Demanding legitimate rights
Lahore: Struggle for rule of law
Pop: 10.25 mil
Languages: Balochi, Pashtun
Ethnicities: Baloch, Pashtun
Pop: 1.8 mil
Tribal Areas (FATA)
Pop: 5.6 mil
Languages: Pashto, Hazara
Pop: 20.22 mil
Courtesy: Friedrich Naumann Siftung and Liberal Forum of Pakistan
Historical interpretations that place religion as the
primary factor behind the partition of India are
Decentralization, provincial autonomy, and power-
sharing were demands of the northeast and northwest
Muslim majority provinces.
Until 1930, there was little support for a state like Pakistan in
these Muslim majority areas because of fears over this new
state mainly representing Punjabi interests.
Nehru Report of 1928 and the Constitution of India (1935
India Act) became major sources of conflict, which ultimately
resulted in partition.
The constitution removed basic autonomy and rights from
historically self-governed federating units
NE and NW Muslim majority provinces feared the domination and
power of federal authorities.
Muslim League divisively exploited religion to gain support against
the 1935 Act, which preserved the united state of India.
The 1940 Lahore Resolution offered the status of “autonomous
and sovereign” states within the new formula.
After the1940 Resolution, NE and NW Muslim-majority
provinces agreed to join the new state of Pakistan.
1947: Independence Act and over-centralization of state
authorities through Provisional Constitution Order
1949: Adoption of 1935 Act as an interim constitution
for the new Pakistani state
Objective Resolution lays foundations for a theocratic state and
a unitary form of government
1949: Elevation of Urdu to the status of sole national
language (which only 5.8% population of West Pakistan
1955: Consolidation of west Pakistani provinces into the
ill-famed “One Unit” scheme
Over-centralization of the state authorities/structures
Concurrent lists favor federal authority against provinces
Domination of one province (Punjab) in all state
institutions: parliament, armed forces, civil bureaucracy,
and federal agencies and corporations.
Plight of smaller provinces
Unjust National Finance Commission (NFC) awards
Inequalities in natural resource exploitation and royalty
distribution (water, oil, gas, coal, etc.)
Disproportionate allocation of jobs and opportunities
Undemocratic language and education policies
Inter-provincial migration and fears of supplanting of
Punjab 57.36% 20.6% 23.04% 4.32%
Sindh 23.71% 22.5% 69.02% 7.18%
Baluchistan 5.11% 24.9% 2.40% 82.0%
Source: Pakistan National Human Development Report 2003, UNDP Pakistan, as cited in
Dr. Gulfaraz Ahmed, “Fiscal Federalism: Resource Sharing Issues,” Pakistan Institute of
Sindh 71 56
Punjab 5 25
NWFP 2 18
Baluchistan 22 0.1
Provincial Oil and Gas Production in Pakistan 2007–2008
Source: Pakistan Energy Yearbook 2008, Ministry
of Petroleum and Natural Resources,
Government of Pakistan.
Each province receives
12.5% of the total revenue it
contributes to the national
pool from resource
The federal center keeps the
other 88.5% of the royalty.
Oil- and gas-producing
provinces remain chronically
underdeveloped and do not
receive their fair share from
Punjab 50% 86% 62.36% 49.94%
11.5% 9% 12.41% 10.17%
Balochistan 3.5% ~1% 3.01% 2.43%
Source: Mohammad Waseem, “Affirmative Action Policies in Pakistan,” Ethnic Studies Report, Vol. XV,
No. 2, July 1997. 14
1973 1983 1986
Punjabi 49.3% 54.9% 55.3%
Pashtun 10.5% 13.4% 12.6%
Sindhi 3.1% 5.4% 7.2%
Urdu-speaking 30.1% 17.4% 18.2%
2.6% 3.6% 1.4%
Azad Jammu and
1.8% 1.9% 1.7%
Source: Charles H. Kennedy, “Managing Ethnic Conflict: The Case of Pakistan,” Regional
Politics and Policy (Spring 1993): p. 138. 15
Intra-state conflicts (economic, political and ethnic)
Center vs. Provinces
Punjab vs. Smaller Provinces
Provinces vs. Districts
Separation of East Pakistan (Bangladesh)
Rising distrust in model of federalism as practiced in Pakistan
Weak state institutions and bad governance
Underdeveloped provincial and local governments and infrastructure
Unresponsiveness of authorities to citizens’ immediate needs and rights
A new, more democratic and representative constitution based on the
1940 Resolution should be passed by a new Constituent Assembly.
The 1973 constitution could serve in the interim, provided
undemocratic amendments are abrogated
A Constitutional Court should be established to protect integrity of
new constitution and arbitrate over inter-provincial/federal relations.
The concurrent list should be abolished.
The federal government should have only four areas of responsibility: foreign
policy, defense, currency, and communications.
All remaining areas (including taxation) should go to provincial governments.
FATA and FANA should become part of Pashtunkhwa (NWFP).
The military should have no role or stake in politics and public life.
The armed forces should be restructured and should have equal representation
from all the respective provinces.
A structurally imbalanced federation has emerged since
the separation of East Pakistan.
Senate must be empowered as a true territorial chamber
where each province retains equal numerical
Senators should be directly elected by the populace.
Senate must have the power to pass or veto budget, defense and
monetary bills as well as to approve treaties with foreign states.
All federal appointments must be confirmed by Senate committees.
Non-Muslim Pakistanis should be given representation in the
A renewed Council of Common Interests should be genuinely
representative, meet regularly, and function according to its
mandate of facilitating inter-provincial communication and
conflict resolution. 19
Provinces should enjoy full provincial autonomy in accordance with 1940
All indigenous languages—Punjabi, Sindhi, Pushto, Balochi, Siraiki, Hindko and
others—should be granted the status of national languages.
Urdu and English should remain the official languages of communication.
Provincial governments should be able to devise and implement education and
language policies according to their own preferences.
District Government System should be abolished and the previous municipal
system should be restored to its true spirit and form.
Either the office of the Governor should be abolished or the constitutional
powers of governors should be curtailed (specifically the right to dismiss the
provincial assemblies and governments).
The state has no constitutional or moral right to redraw the geographical
boundaries of provinces against the wishes of the indigenous people.
National Finance Commission awards should not be distributed
solely on the basis of population
Instead, the allocation of NFC awards should be decided through
an index of the following criteria:
disparities in development as measured by the Human
Development Index (HDI), inequality (GINI coefficient), and
incidence of poverty in the provinces
level of per-capita income in comparison with other provinces
The Central Board of Revenue should be abolished in favor of the
establishment of a Provincial Board of Revenue
Resource control should lie completely in the hands of provinces.
30% of the royalty from fossil fuels should be given to the center
20% of the royalty from fossil fuels should be given to the resource-
The remaining 50% should remain in the provinces.
According to international law on water-sharing, lower riparian
areas have the right to veto any diversions of water from major
rivers and tributaries.
Further cuts and diversions through dams, canals and barrages on the Indus
River must gain the approval of lower riparian areas.
Upstream mega-water projects should be shelved.
True federalism offers the most democratic system to
govern Pakistan’s diverse array of nationalities and
Democratic resolution of intra-state conflicts and promotion
of inter-provincial harmony
Depoliticizing and ensuring transparency in the military
Protecting language and cultural rights of all nationalities and
Providing equitable social justice to underdeveloped and
marginalized regions, nationalities, and communities
Improve governance in regions threatened by the advance of
Maintaining the integrity of the federation based on equality
Long live the struggle for democracy, peace
and provincial autonomy in Pakistan!