Imran Khan is right, Pakistan should have more than four provinces

Published: May 21, 2018
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Dividing the country into more provinces could ease the problems faced by its people. PHOTO: RAHEEM

Whenever I make any comments about Pakistan having more provinces and smaller units, the reaction is always the same,

“You want to divide the country? Are you a RAW agent or what?” 

So when Imran Khan promised the creation of a South Punjab, it was a pleasant surprise to hear him say something intelligent for once. Imran made this promise recently as he welcomed turncoats from South Punjab into his party; defectors who enjoyed the perks and privileges of being MNAs for the past five years while saying nothing about creating a new province, until now.

While supporting the demand by the Janoobi Punjab Suba Mahaaz (JPSM) for a South Punjab province, Imran said,

“I believe that it is very difficult to administer big units.”

He went on to say,

“The power is centred in Lahore and there is a growing sense of deprivation in south Punjab areas.”

So according to Imran, and rightly so, Punjab should be divided. But if he really is sincere when he says the country should have more provinces, why does he want the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to be merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P)? Why not have more provinces to make K-P itself more manageable? And why does he say nothing about Sindh being divided into smaller provinces as well?

In fact, when it comes to Karachi, Imran holds a diametrically opposite view:

“Karachi cannot be a separate province,” he said.

He knows that if he says otherwise, his party will get no votes from the rural areas of Sindh. So it seems Imran is just paying lip service to the cause of smaller provinces, and he will continue to do so as long as his party remains in the opposition.

Devolution of power by having more provinces is good for democracy and strengthens the country. Unfortunately, neither Nawaz Sharif nor Asif Ali Zardari want power to be given to local bodies. The Sharif brothers have spent more than half of Punjab’s budget on the beautification of Lahore, whereas the less is said about Sindh, the better.

Although Karachi contributes most of the revenue for its province, hardly anything is spent on the city, and the mounds of garbage accumulating have made it the dirtiest city in the region. Of course, if even some of the revenue contributed by the people of Karachi had been spent on the welfare of the city, would the rulers of Sindh have been able to siphon away billions to foreign countries? After all, Rs2 billion in cash was allegedly recovered from a raid at Information Minister Sharjeel Memon’s house. Where did he get such a huge amount of money, and that too in cash?

One problem faced by the common man is that the rulers are inaccessible to the public at large. Gwadar is about 800 kilometres from Quetta, the capital of Balochistan, while Zhob is about half that distance from Quetta. People in these two cities have to spend a considerable amount of time to get their personal problems heard by ministers. Similarly, Multan is 300 kilometres away from Lahore, and the distance between the Kashmore District and Karachi is 600 kilometres.

Dividing the country into more provinces could ease the problems faced by its people, as having more provinces will bring the seats of the government closer to the citizens.

There is no reason why Pakistan (with more than 200 million people) should have only four large administrative units. Having four provinces made sense in 1947, when the population was only 30 million. Switzerland has a population of eight million, less than half of Karachi’s, yet it is divided into 26 parts, known as cantons. No wonder Switzerland is one of the most efficient societies in the world.

Turkey, with a population of 81 million, has 81 provinces, while Taiwan, with 23 million, has 22. Having only four provinces has encouraged corruption and ensured Pakistan remains backward and underdeveloped. This situation cannot continue for long, and unless more provinces are created, the people will be forced to come out on the streets.

Those who live in Karachi know what it is to have rulers who know nothing about their problems. The city used to have a Karachi Building Control Authority once, which was the largest contributor to its revenue. The greedy rulers of the province, belonging to the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), renamed it to the Sindh Building Control Authority so they could have control over this lucrative department. Out of the 27 directors of this moneymaking entity, 22 are outsiders posted in Karachi, no doubt after paying a handsome sum to get the job.

In fact, practically all those who preside over Karachi’s destiny have had their origins in other cities of Sindh. Consequently, you meet very few genuine Karachiites working in the departments of the Sindh government. Most policemen in Karachi are unable to make themselves understood because they cannot speak the national language fluently, as they have spent their lives in villages and small towns far away from Karachi and have been appointed for being party activists. If Karachi were made a separate province, its elected ministers would be aware of what the people need, and since they would be easily accessible to voters throughout the year, they would ensure that taxes paid by the people are spent wisely and not siphoned away into foreign bank accounts.

I have no doubt that in every provincial capital, government servants are appointed by ministers from their own constituencies and not on merit. Conversely, having more provinces would mean more employment for those who are residents, and street crime would decrease as a result.

Ideally, all those cities or divisions with populations between 10 and 20 million should be made provinces. Karachi, Lahore, Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Bahawalpur, Dera Ghazi Khan, Hyderabad, Multan and Rawalpindi would all fall under this category. The cities having less than a million residents can be merged with smaller neighbouring towns to make more provinces. Due to its small population and large area, the present six divisions of Balochistan can be made provinces, while K-P can be split into three provinces. Sindh can have five: Karachi, Hyderabad, Larkana, Sukkur and Mirpurkhas.

Having more units would mean the transfer of funds to more people who can use them wisely. As we have seen in Punjab, most of the funds have been spent in Lahore, central and north Punjab; all part of the core constituency of the Sharif brothers. South Punjab has therefore seen very little development in the past five years.

Even though a federal system of government works best when control and authority are decentralised, as is the case when more provinces are created, it is doubtful that the present mindset and greed of our politicians will allow them to agree to the formation of more provinces. Our citizens will thus be compelled to go on living as they have in the past, with poor healthcare, without proper education for their children, with battered roads and heaps of garbage lying everywhere.

Shakir Lakhani

Shakir Lakhani

Engineer, former visiting lecturer at NED Engineering College, industrialist, associated with petroleum/chemical industries for many years. Loves writing, and (in the opinion of most of those who know him), mentally unbalanced. He tweets @shakirlakhani (twitter.com/shakirlakhani)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Patwari

    Agree with you 100% There should be more provinces. Specially in Sindh.
    There will be a Karachi Province. For Urdu speakers. Rest assured that day
    is coming.
    As soon as the Muhajjirs grow a spine. And kick their thug political leaders unto
    Keamari island in exile. Build a fence around the island and mine it. So they cannot
    swim back.
    Or set them adrift on boats in Arabian Sea. Pointed toward Bombay or Australia.
    They can start a new life there. They have tons of money salted away,…in Macau,
    Hong Kong, Indonesia…Dubai, Qatar…Hindustan.
    The Northern areas Chitral, Hunza, Kaghan, Baltistan, Gilgit, want nothing to do with K-P.
    They want their own province too. Which they will get. No doubt about it.
    And about the Kuptaan, he will do more Uturns and will look like a spinning top.Recommend

  • Fayyaz Baqir

    You are absolutely right. We need more provinces on administrative basis. But the first step is to devolve real administrative, fiscal and political power from centre and provinces to district and Tehsil governments. That is the concrete first step. This might be the best immediate alternative, like having 130 plus provinces without rocking the boat. The question is how voters can compel their party leaders to honour their committment on devolution? I think this one point more than any other point determines if democracy can be ‘saved’ in Pakistan. More than ‘civil-military’ divide, it is the leader -led divide which is rocking the boat of democracy in Pakistan. Ordinary people stand the chance of getting a greater share in power through ‘devolution’ rather than ‘revolutions’. One option is for voters to create voters unions on devolution issue and vote only for those candidates who support devolution. These unions can replace the politics of Biraderi and patronage. A good cause for the youth.Recommend

  • sullu2004

    yes , south, central and north Punjab, with Karachi and rest of sind, blochistan with bloch and pashtoons, and kpk with harzara, fata and rest of kpk. let see how will not accept thatRecommend

  • Murtaza Khuhro

    Imran khan is a confused guy. He is not a leader and he has no vision. He does not know much about the changing world.
    I am not a political worker but as an economist, political analyst and as a person watching exponentially unfolding sci-tech revolution; I understand that he has done more harm to people of Pakistan than good.
    I am not comparing him with others. He has wasted a ‘gifted’ opportunity and if he could not exploit that opportunity in KPK, then what he will do if he forms federal government.
    In fact, we do not have leadership that is living in the present and looks in the future. Zardari sb- 10-20% efficiency. PML N- 40-50% efficiency and IK 30-40% efficiency. People of Pakistan need a new leadership. And, it is responsibility of all of us to provide such leadership. Give up on these old buddies.
    Issue is not to create more provinces. Issue is to give good and efficient governance with devolution. When devolution is optimal, your districts would act like provinces.Recommend

  • Question_Question

    More provinces also means more funds required and more political bickering over issues. This will also add to the administrative costs and the administrative structures which will have to be setup like CM house etc. How do you suggest to handle all of that?Recommend

  • Karachiwala

    dont bring karachi in this more province talk, else you would cast as raw agent.Recommend

  • Hanif Mohammad

    In fact Sindh should be split to curb PPP and MQM’s hooliganism.Recommend

  • Hanif Mohammad

    Only true leader is Nawaz Sharif. Coz, he has the trademark values of a Pakistani politician, like corruption, treason, and so on.Recommend

  • M. S. Chaudhry

    First of all we must not forget that this slogan of new Province is not the brainchild of people or local leaders of South Punjab ( although it’s an old issue). It came from those quarters specifically for this election, who don’t want even one province. It’s 2018 election slogan and it will die down soon after results are announced and desired goals are achieved. The proponents of South Punjab as a separate province will get winning prizes in forms of ministries and slogan will be erased from their memories as it’s being downloaded now. This issue will be put in the grave once again and come to life in 2022 if needed.
    Decentralization is good and necessary but it only works, if third and second tier political leadership i.e local and provincial leaders are honest and have will and vision to do better for their cities, towns and villages. In a country where federal leaders are stupid, lazy, cowards, dishonest and corrupt, imagine the capabilities of second and third tier leaders who are arms and brains of federal leaders. We are forced to read examples of developed countries and their dozens of provinces but nobody mentions that Afghanistan has also 34 provinces. Internationally we are bracketed with Afghanistan, not with Korea..Recommend

  • Sonya Taimoor

    Would love to see PTI’s policy on GB as to whether or not they like to give it a long due status of a province.Recommend

  • Afee

    Very silly questions, “Why not have more provinces to make K-P itself more manageable? And why does he say nothing about Sindh being divided into smaller provinces as well? The answer is, KP and Sind are large though but not creating a problem disproportionately to Pakistan. It is completely ridiculous to have one province with 60 percent population, besides Bahawalpur was a separate province before Ayyub Khan conceived the yet sillier idea of “one unit.” First of all Punjab should be divided to create a balance of consumption and resource distribution, then other provinces even be considered on the administrative grounds.Recommend

  • James Caan

    If leaders are corrupt whether Pakistan has 04 provinces or 400 provinces nothing will change !!!!Recommend

  • sterry

    There are 34 provinces in Afghanistan and all it has done is create 34 administrations to create corruption and 34 more administrations without improving any nation building. I don’t think having more or less provinces solves anything good except it is a political ploy to let some people assume an administration and make jobs and roles for themselves and make another bureaucracy.Recommend

  • farsar

    At least he is not corrrupt like you and others. Uturns are legal.Recommend

  • sterry

    I don’t think the native Sindis will allow anyone to take away any part of their home province; If anything, they will say that we welcomed migrants from India and now those migrants are taking away a part of that home – such a scenario will be dangerous for the country. Karachi is the biggest city in terms of Pashtu speakers anywhere in the world. They too will say that they migrated to Sind like the Indian Muhajirs and they too will demand a province in Karachi by your logic. Would it not be better if people who move to someone else’s land, learn to respect the local people and integrate – if not, no one is stopping them from moving back to India. The only fence Pakistanis want to see is one to keep out infiltration of criminal agents from India and Afghanistan. The Sindhis will not allow you to fence Karachi or any city in their home province. You can be rest assured that Sindis will not allow Indians or anyone to take over their province which was known as Al Sind from ancient times. I am sure saner heads in Pakistan will understand that they would be playing with fire.Recommend

  • Hammad Mian

    More Provinces, More powers to the Provinces and rapid growth in development.Recommend

  • BayAreaPakhtun

    There should be more provinces. No province should be double that of another province. Punjab today is, you win Punjab you have half way to governing the country. Not saying Punjaab has brightest of population but as they say… where the punjaab goes the govt follows.Recommend

  • Parvez

    More provinces makes good sense ….not just for administration reasons but also for political reasons.Recommend

  • muhammad rehman

    Yes Imran is the solution to all the problems!Recommend

  • muhammad rehman

    Let us go back to one unit and have local councils with most of the powers..all MPA should go and may be we should invite a hashmi prince a king as well for unifying the nationRecommend

  • Nabeel Akhtar

    Another big issue is that our provinces currently are defined on linguistic/ethnic grounds. So any discussion on creating more provinces, and the hooligans of PPP and PLMN start to play on the emotions of the ignorant people by terming it a conspiracy against SINDH/PUNJAB etc.. The real reason is that the CM holds the power and funds of a large province and non of the parties want to loose their power over such a huge fund, police, administration, authority etc. Karachi has been the most affected city due to this reason and frankly, I do not see the time in near future where Karachi as a province will be welcomed by corrupt politicians of Sindh.Recommend

  • Shakir Lakhani

    “You can be rest assured that Sindis will not allow Indians or anyone to take over their province which was known as Al Sind from ancient times”. Well, Sindhis didn’t object when Multan was incorporated in Punjab! Moreover, if Zardari wants Punjab to be divided, he should also agree to divide Sindh.Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    Imran Khan need not mae wild statemnts but follow the legal course to demand additional provinces. The procdure is to propse such an act in the respective parliament and with two third majority a new province can be enacted.

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • Patwari

    Humza, Afghani people are still in the 7th. century.
    They have yet to be part of the modern world.
    Admittedly, Punjab is just a tad better. Where a
    pregnant woman was stoned to death at the front
    door of the Lahore High Court, by her father and
    brother. While the police stood and watched the
    ‘tamasha’. Another gave birth in the street right
    outside a govt. run hospital, because she did not
    have enough money. Still another died on the
    hospital floor, after being turned away from TWO
    govt. hospitals, for lack of money. Only in Punjab!!
    [Medical care is suppose to be FREE in govt. hospitals
    not so in Punjab]
    So, yes, the need for more provinces is very urgent.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Thank you Humza, for your toxic comment. Bares the real feelings.
    Nothing but racism, discrimination, and everything in between.
    Your hatred , for Muhajjirs, shows what they go through every day,
    for the last 70 years. The exact reason[s] why they want a separate
    province.
    Be happy, in your convoluted, disconnected, making no sense, rant.
    May you find peace in your tortured mind.
    By the way, there is a second Punjab, in England. Near Manchester.
    Your other homeland. You will be welcomed there, with open arms.Recommend

  • Afee

    “I am not comparing him with others.” Why not ??? Election is a contest and there are no Fareshte in this election. one has to choose between, IK, Nawaz Brothers and Zardari & sons. If people do not choose IK, who you suggest they vote for, Nawaz Bros, or Zardari & Sons ? Who is better ?Recommend

  • badarkashmiri

    People are fighting for provinces , thanks to Media for creating differences in Pakistani people , media is the worse enemy for the unity of PakistanRecommend