Mar 29 - Apr 4, 2010

Today, Pakistan is beset by multi-dimensional challenges. The nationalism must replace sectarianism and parochialism. Similarly, peace and tolerance should replace terrorism and extremism. These miracles are possible if all segments and institutions of society stand unanimous and united on one national agenda of strengthening Pakistan.

National integration is rooted in the ideology of Pakistan, which is based on the Two-Nation Theory the proposition put forward in pre-partition India that the Hindus and the Muslims were two separate nations, and so should be able to live in separate homelands. The theory united the Muslims into a strong pressure group and forced the hand of the British into partitioning the subcontinent in 1947.

By invoking the 'Ideology of Pakistan' to portray Muslims as a monolithic group, the State has ensured that being a Muslim becomes simultaneously an individual and a collective identity, one that transcends all class, race, ethnic and even national boundaries.

Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had a clear vision of Muslim nationalism in the subcontinent and he presented it in crystal-clear words in his presidential address on the occasion of Pakistan resolution in 1940, when he said,

"We are a nation with our own distinctive culture and civilization, language and literature, art and architecture, value and proportion, legal laws and moral codes, customs and calendars, history and tradition, aptitudes and ambitions; in short, we have our own distinctive outlook of life and on life. By all canons of international law, we are a nation."

The Muslims of the sub-continent unanimously struggled for a separate homeland where they could flourish their distinctive national features, as given by Qaid-i-Azam. The national integration is in fact a force, which emanates from these distinctive features and binds the Pakistani people speaking different languages and belonging to different ethnic groups, into a compact body.

Political disharmony and tussles between the provinces and the Federation are detrimental to national integration. The major grievance of the smaller provinces against the centre has been about transferring the subjects on the concurrent list to the provinces.

Over-centralism, unitary type of governance and arbitrary nature of decision-making has actually alienated the smaller provinces and strengthened their demand for provincial autonomy. The undue centralism is repugnant to the spirit of the historic Pakistan resolution presented on 23rd March, 1940 at Iqbal Park in Lahore. The resolution endorses that strong federating units can only strengthen the federation.

There has been a tussle between centre and the provinces on the issue of provincial autonomy since the creation of Pakistan. All the powers, which the constitution has given to provinces, are currently vested with the centre. This power grabbing by the centre has weakened the provinces and strengthened the central authorities. In fact, the existing criterion for distribution of national resources is based on political indicators. Stronger the province politically, the bigger its share in the resources.

Balochistan presents a classic case of a small and impoverished province, which has ever remained at the mercy of centre for meeting its financial needs and obligations. It is because of the dominance of central authorities in the National Finance Commission that the province feels stronghold of the centre over its natural resources. This dominance finds its full manifestation in economic planning, policy and decision-making processes in Islamabad. The province has witnessed at least four insurgencies since the creation of Pakistan. Military operations launched to quell these insurgencies intensified the sense of alienation in the province. The insurgents have been demanding their economic and political rights, which can only be achieved if the centre gives provincial autonomy to the federating units, as enshrined in the Constitution of 1973.

Balochistan has been in throes of financial crisis since 1970 when it got the status of fourth province of Pakistan. The province has been managing to run its affairs on loans and subventions and hopes and promises. After revival of provincial status, it was faced with certain problems of key importance such as lack of physical and institutional infrastructure for governance. It is because of the less financial autonomy granted to the province that the Baloch nationalist parties resent over the Islamabad's firm control over the way the province's economy is managed. Merely loans, subventions and promises can not get the province out of its perennial financial problems.

The members of National Assembly from Balochistan had signed the 1973 Constitution on the condition that the concurrent list of subjects would be reviewed after 10 years in 1983. But what to speak of 10-year period, even after lapse of 36 years, the concurrent list has not been reviewed and transferred to the provinces.

Today, the separatists, who are pursuing their agenda outside the country's constitutional framework, are fuelling the fire of a struggle for independent Balochistan, against the nationalists, who have been demanding their political and economic rights, as enshrined in the Constitution of 1973. The federal government has so far rendered a lip service to the just struggle of Baloch nationalists within the constitutional framework. A need is direly felt to marginalize the separatists from the Baloch nationalism. This would only be possible when the rulers take serious and tangible measures for granting political and economic autonomy to the province.

Each year, we celebrate the 23rd of March to commemorate the most outstanding achievement of the Muslims of the subcontinent who passed the historic Pakistan Resolution, which had declared unambiguously that, "No constitutional plan would be workable or acceptable to the Muslims unless geographical contiguous units are demarcated into regions which should be so constituted with such territorial readjustments as may be necessary. That the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in majority as in the North-Western and Eastern zones of India should be grouped to constitute independent states in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign".

Today we direly need to realize and implement the vision of a federal state as presented in the Pakistan Resolution instead of celebrating the day when the resolution was presented. The resolution crystal-clearly presented an independent and sovereign federal state for the Muslims of the subcontinent in which the constituent units or provinces would enjoy greater autonomy.

What to speak of a "greater autonomy", the provinces even did not enjoy discretion in matters, which are purely the provincial subjects. The centre like a 'mega magnet' grabbed all the powers of the federating units making the provinces weak and dependent upon the central government for running their affairs. The long period of military dictatorship and quasi-dictatorship further empowered the centre at the expense of the provinces.