What if Punjab is too large?

This is true within Pakistan. Whatever is being heard from the professionals working in the international agencies is that Punjab, since Nawaz Sharif’s days, is a better managed province. Along with the Sharif brothers, people give a lot of credit to Ch. Pervaiz Elahi for running an efficient administration in Punjab.
On the contrary, smaller provinces, without naming the names, are extreme examples of poor governance. Therefore, the rationale that a bigger province should be broken into smaller ones based on efficiency is utterly false and baseless.
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DIVIDING PUNJAB

ORANGES  WITH APPLES COMPARED!

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by Dr. Manzur Ejaz

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The pretext for the creation of a separate Saraiki province has no validity if we examine the past experience within Indo-Pak or in the rest of the world. However, if the Saraiki province is being created on the basis of linguistic differentiation and presumed cultural differences, then it should be recognized as a principle and implemented in the rest of the country as well. As a matter of fact, it would be followed by creation of other provinces on the linguistic basis even some political parties like MQM are hiding their ultimate agenda to set a precedent and then follow up.

The major argument in favor of breaking up Punjab into smaller provinces is that the province is too large as it currently exists. California, Texas, Florida and New York states have 37, 25, 19, 18 millions people respectively, while there are 8 US states that have less than one million, and North Dakota and Vermont have populations of around half a million. The bulk of the US states has a population around five million. But does it mean that South Dakota is being run more efficiently then even New York City, a part of New York State. Most of the smaller southern states are poor, badly managed, and serve as the hub of extreme conservatism because a tiny elite have unlimited influence over smaller populations. However, when it comes to highly populated large states like Texas or California, the rich individual’s influence is diluted, and they cannot create small fiefdoms out of large diverse states.

This is also true within Pakistan. Whatever is being heard from the professionals working in the international agencies is that Punjab, since Nawaz Sharif’s days, is a better managed province. Along with the Sharif brothers, people give a lot of credit to Ch. Pervaiz Elahi for running an efficient administration in Punjab. On the contrary, smaller provinces, without naming the names, are extreme examples of poor governance. Therefore, the rationale that a bigger province should be broken into smaller ones based on efficiency is utterly false and baseless.

In the last couple of decades many tehsils were upgraded to break the large districts. For example, Sahiwal was divided adding two new districts, Okara and Pakpattan. The question is: Has the management improved or just resulted in additional administrative layers and tripling administrative costs? Other than local landed aristocracy and bureaucracy, who have benefitted by such moves? Has any cost-benefit study been conducted on this change? I do not think so.

To support the case for creating a new province, Afghanistan’s example is often quoted. Have Afghan provinces ever governed—even before 70s—better than Pakistani Punjab or even other Pak provinces which are much larger than their counterparts in the northern neighbor?

Malaysia is another country quoted more often. Again were these provinces being run better and, furthermore, what is the concept of ‘province’ in Afghanistan or Malaysia? I think we are comparing oranges and apples because Afghan provinces are like our districts with a different set up. In India and Pakistan, provinces have legislative assemblies, chief ministers (ever heard of chief minister of an Afghan province?), governors and an army of provincial cabinet ministers. Therefore, creating new provinces multiplies the quantity of bureaucrats, administrative staffs and hence the recurrent costs.

Big size is also blamed for Punjabi influence in Pakistanthrough the political setup and domination of military. Presently PPP is ruling the federation having won seats in smaller, as well as in the largest province. At the moment, the highest political posts in the center are held by politicians from Sindh and would-be Saraiki area. Even the governor of Punjab belongs to Saraiki area. Furthermore, Punjabi politicians are very diverse and have never been in one party to influence the center in one direction. Therefore, the notion of size being the basis of Punjabi influence is false. However, if the central Punjab has largest chunks of population then that cannot be changed even after creating the Saraiki province, Punjab will still have more national assembly seats than other provinces if it is to be based on a democratic process of one-person-one-vote.

As for as the Punjabi influence through military is concerned, that should have been thought out by wizards who created Pakistan, because most of the Muslim Punjabi military was comprised of Punjabis before 1947. As a matter of fact the bulk of the military comes from five or six districts of northern Punjab and that is not going to change even after Saraiki Provinceis created. If these districts are put into another province, namely Pothohar, then it will be renamed as Pothoharri army. Furthermore, the ratio of army men from KP is massively understated.

  While the arguments of size and efficiency hold no grounds the linguistic and cultural differentiation is the only remaining valid reason for creating Saraiki province. As a principle, every enlightened person supports the nationality rights without any if’s and butts. However, it is almost certain that instead of Saraiki, Urdu will be the official language of the new province: Sajjada Nashins of Multan are not known to be fond of people’s language in the last ten centuries. If that is going to be the case then linguistic pretext is irrelevant as well. The ethnic differentiation is also a doubtful denominator because people of ex-Bahawalpur state, even Saraiki speaking, want their state to be recognized as a separate province. Nawab Salahud Din, heir to the state has negated the ethnic basis by declaring that migrants, settlers and indigenous people are equal and united.

If Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is trying to contain Nawaz Sharif’s influence then it is extremely unwise step. Such decisions having very long-term effects and should be taken to get rid of temporary difficulties. However, if the feudals of Sindh are hoping to care out a fiefdom in Punjab to get rid of forward-looking central Punjabi population, then it is another matter. If central Punjab had not overwhelmingly supported Zulifqar Ali Bhutto in 1970 election, he could not have been able to rehabilitate Sindhi language to its long deserved status. If the precedent of Saraiki province is established no one can stop creation of Karachi-Hyderabad province. That will decimate Sindhi aspirations.

The role of middle classes of Punjab has been crucial in present Pakistan’s democratic movements. It is this area where persons from Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chauhdry to Mukhtaran Mai find supporters. The fear is that oppressed people of the feudal belt of Punjab will lose their supporters likePakistan did when East Pakistan broke away: Pakistanis lost the best vanguards of democratic rights. Nevertheless, we wish good luck to Saraiki people if they think Saraiki province will fulfill their desire of nationality rights even if it is transformed into feudal fiefdoms!

Related Post:

1. Before breaking up Punjab, please care to read this…..

Dr. Manzur Ejaz is a Washington based writer, literary critic and well-known Pakistani columnist. He has auuthored many books including  Epistemology of Development Economics, Nazman (collection of poems), Ranjhan yar  (Stage play), Waris Nama (Explaining Waris Shah),My People My Thoughts  (Collection of columns).

Source, Ttitle Image

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