Analyzing the Problems and Issues of Federalism
Federation is a form of government in which power is constitutionally divided among different federating units in such a way that each one exercises responsibility for a particular set of functions and maintains its own institutions to describe these functions. Federalism establishes two sets of government: federal or central authority, and the government of federating units on the basis of mutually-agreed formula of division of power or authority. The mode of political organization unites smaller polities with an overarching political system by distributing power among general and constituent governments on an equal footing. The essence of federalism lies in the coordinate status of both central and provincial/regional governments and in independence of both in their own spheres. The principle of distribution of power is the basic reality behind the structural composition of a federation.
Crisis of federalism in Pakistan
Crisis of federation is one of the major challenges confronted by Pakistan. Row over distribution of resources, delay in construction of dams, controversies surrounding NFC award, growing inter-provincial mistrust and insurgency in Balochistan, all are symptoms of a malaise that afflicts the body politic of Pakistan with the crisis of federalism. In the past, this crisis led to the secession of East Pakistan and now again this crisis has assumed horrific proportions, and resolution of this crisis is inevitable to secure the future of federation.
Here is a brief analysis on the problems that have plagued Pakistan with the crisis of national integration:
1. Overdeveloped state structure
This means the structural roots of dominance of non-political forces in the state system that is embedded in colonial legacy. The perpetuation of this overdeveloped state structure obstructed the civilian supremacy. Moreover, it has encouraged state authoritarianism which has further widened the gulf among federating units. It has also been responsible for a strong centre which was reinforced under the military regimes. It has been the main culprit in the case of East Pakistan’s separation and yet it is prevailing. The concept of strong centre has been due to the military interference. This trend was further reinforced by non-political forces. This has been common in Pakistan politics that the central government is often interfered with authoritarianism and over-centralization which has cause serious conflicts between the centre and the provinces.
2. Intermittent military coups
Dr Hassan Askari Rizvi argues that under direct military rule, Chief Martial Law Administrator (CMLA) is not restrained by the constitution; therefore, Pakistan loses its federal character at operational level. The provinces become subsidiary administrative units of government in which capital city is controlled by top brass of military and the provincial governors become quite active in governance, impinging on the authority of chief ministers. Another significant development under military rule is the enhanced powers of corps commanders, especially those based in provincial capitals. This is more common if the governor of a province happens to be a civilian. This continues even after the military rule ends. So, as a result of prolonged military rule, Pakistan’s political system has turned into a unitary one. Moreover, in the absence of representative governments, the role of centre becomes more overwhelming over the affairs of the units and the spirit of federalism is scarified. Therefore, martial laws further exacerbate or aggravate the crisis of federalism.
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