Do we need new provinces?

Published: August 12, 2011

The idea of creating new provinces is an old one. For years different ethnic groups have been seeking the creation of their own provinces and for years these voices were ignored. But recently this issue has popped up again –  this time it feels like something might actually happen.  

This is because political parties now want to publicly discuss this issue and take a stand. For years the issue has been raised in drawing rooms but never on a public platform.

So, do we even need new provinces?

All the cool kids are doing it

Contrary to popular belief provinces are created within countries fairly often. In most cases new provinces are created to improve and simplify public management and governance. In a lot of cases they are carved out of existing provinces to reduce ethnic tensions between communities and in certain cases they are created to satisfy the demands of the local population.

A great example of this is India and Nigeria: in both cases, the governments have created new provinces as and when the need has arisen. Since 2000, India has created at least six new provinces mostly for better administration and satisfying public demands. The local government in India has improved drastically in part for the smaller administrative units and it has also helped curb the once troublesome threat of multiple insurgencies by local communities against the government.

In Nigeria’s case, they increased the number of provinces from 3 to 13 and then to 36 in a period of 60 years to reduce ethnic conflict and dominance of any one ethnicity. This has helped Nigeria break the dominance of the Hausa Fulani, the largest ethnic group in Nigeria that makes up about 30 per cent of the total population while also helping the country become a stable democracy after being run as a dictatorship for over 20 years.

What works for us?

Based on the past creating new provinces is a great idea. Also, given the sort of issues Pakistan faces it is logical to create smaller administrative units.

In order to put this in to perspective, just think about why someone living in Rahim Yaar Khan should need to travel all the way to Lahore to get something done that should have been done locally? Why should we have to deal with bureaucracy at various levels just to get something done that is a completely local concern?

In addition to that, if we see the sort of growth that has taken place in all four provinces, there is a clear indication that the development budget and level of growth reduces on average based on the distance of the area from the provincial capital. This uneven growth has led to resentment in various places. While people in major cities enjoy most utilities; people in far flung areas fail to make the priority list when development budgets are being distributed.

So, in short, having more provinces makes sense. It will help governance and it will address the issues of neglected parts of the country suffering from uneven development that has been taking places for over 60 years now.

What is the fuss about?

Why don’t we just create more provinces and get it over with rather than dragging this issue through the mud and playing politics?

Well, the answer to that is straight forward as well. The reason that the whole new province issue is being dragged along is politics; specifically the electoral politics of creating new provinces. As things are PML (N or Q) have a strong hold in Punjab, PPP and MQM have a hold in Sindh, Balochistan is s toss up but PML-Q and PPP have an edge there and KPK is ANP or JUI plus Allies. Now this scenario is simple enough, there is a status quo in place and it works for most parties.

If new provinces were to be carved out of the existing ones, it would mean loss of political might and seats.

So, if there were to be new provinces what would happen is something on the following lines:

What happens to Punjab?

On its own Punjab makes up 60 per cent of the population. This gives the province an edge on nearly all matters, be it policy or implementation. Sheer numbers ensure that any party that can just manage to do well in Punjab will automatically do well nationally – case in point PML-N. This creates resentment among other provinces, which put together, do not have the same amount of seats in the National Assembly.

At times Punjab is accused of pushing through its agenda without regard for anyone else. Now what a lot of people fail to understand is all of Punjab is not the same. South Punjab or as it is better known as the Seraiki Belt, is primarily made up of the Seraiki community who are a different ethnic group. Then there is the State of Bahawalpur, which was once a princely state. In the north, there is the Potohar Belt. Again they have their own language and are ethnic Potohari. Plus in the Center is there is the GT Road Belt. Now in the present circumstances, PML-N does well in the Center and the North, but the Southern Punjab area is PPP and PML-Q.

New Punjab

So if new provinces were to be created, it would mean that South Punjab becomes two provinces, Central Punjab becomes one province and Potohar becomes another one. This changes the dynamics not just for Punjab but for the whole country.

The idea that ‘if you win Punjab you can run Pakistan’ becomes redundant as the overpowering 60 per cent Punjab majority is watered down.This works well for PPP and PML-Q who have new political power in the south, while leaving Potohar open. So, effectively PML-N gets relegated to Central Punjab and Northern Punjab, drastically losing political power and influence.

Hence the reason that PML-N is not in favor of new provinces while PPP is pushing for it publicly. But all in all it is good for the people who will have better service delivery courtesy localized structure of governance.

What happens to Sindh?

Sindh if divided up in further provinces would probably end up with two units, One being Karachi-Hyderabad and the other being rest of Sindh. This means MQM takes one and PPP takes one. For MQM this is excellent – they get to run a whole province, albeit a smaller one but a province nonetheless and they get to consolidate their political hold.

But for PPP, this is just wrong; right now they run all of Sindh and have large amounts of resources at their disposal to still have a fighting chance of winning seats in Karachi. But if they agree to more provinces they will lose this advantage in terms of resources and power. This is why PPP, although talking of new provinces elsewhere, is not even mentioning provinces in context of Sindh.

 What happens in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa?

Ever since KPK got its new name, there has been a vocal movement within the province to create a new province for the people of Hazara who felt left out because of ‘Hazara’ being left out of the name KPK. Their campaign for a new province has been a united and organized effort where smaller groups have come together to seek a new province carved out of KPK.

Politically, KPK is a tossup between ANP and religious parties. But, if Hazara were to be made in to a separate province, it would be politically dominated by PML-N and PML-Q, who have consistently won in Haripur, Abbottabad and Hazara. Plus it would mean loss of major cities like Abbottabad and Haripur for a province like KPK that does not have that many urban centers to begin with. So while ANP and Religious parties are reluctant to back the call for a separate province, PML-N and PML-Q seem to be up in arms over the creation of a new one as it tilts the political dynamics in their favor.

What happens in Balochistan?

Area wise the largest province in Pakistan and also the least developed Balochistan is a perfect case for where new administrative units/provinces are needed. The treacherous terrain and inhospitable weather make it irrational to run such a vast space from just one city that is at times over twelve hours away.

Secondly, the way development has been going it would take years to get even Quetta at par with rest of the country let alone rest of Balochistan. Politically, it would hardly make a difference even if the province was divided in to various smaller provinces, because regardless of party, the local strongmen would win based on clan power.

So, we know that we need new provinces and that it would change the overbearing influence of Punjab in the politics of Pakistan. In addition, we do also know that political parties support more provinces in areas that are not controlled by them for obvious political reasons. So what is the fuss about? Well the fuss is about how to create new provinces? Based on ethnic lines or administrative lines?

Now my answer to those questions is: honestly, it does not matter.

Ideally in the backdrop of the 18th amendment where the provinces get a lot more autonomy and rights, it would make sense to have provinces on administrative basis but even if they were on ethnic lines it would not make that big of a difference. Yes there will be more ethnic polarization if the provinces are made on ethnic lines but then again we are pretending as if we do not have that already.

So while our leaders point score, what needs to be kept in mind at the end of the day is the fact that more provinces is good for us as a country because we get more equitable development, localized bureaucracy and better governance. None of this is going to break this country up, because breaking a country up is not a joke it does not happen because you made more provinces to provide marginalized areas more representation. If anything it will strengthen Pakistan further.

Now if only our politicians and the establishment can see it this way too.


Adnan Khalid Rasool

Currently the Deputy Executive Director Center for Enterprise, Trade and Development, Adnan is also a political analyst working mainly on electoral politics and political campaign management. He tweets at @adnanrasool

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

  • Saad Durrani

    The argument is so long then it gets boring halfway through. Well, I think if they are willing to divide provinces into smaller ones, they should do it sensibly. While make a new province in South Punjab, a part of Sindh and Baluchistan should also be included in it.Recommend

  • muhammad amjad

    why is the ppp targetting only one province,why does ppp want to break up punjab only,they have the majority in sindh assembly they should start with sindh first.what is the pml-n doing? why are they so defensive when the ppp is doing all it can to destroy punjab?Recommend

  • naveed khan

    ppp’s double standards have been totally exposed.they want new provinces in punjab but in their own sindh they say new provinces over our dead bodies,then why doesn’t ppp say that new provinces in punjab over our dead bodies? why this hate campaign against punjab? Recommend

  • Boota Gujjar

    I’m surprised that a serious paper like ET let’s uninformed people write on it. Until not long ago, Seraiki was considered a dialect of Punjabi. A jat or an Arian from south Punjab is still a jat or arain, althought he may speak saraiki. For God’s sake at least have some basic information about the subject you are writing about. The different between north and south Punjab is more of economic than ethnic. Recommend

  • I_love_Pakistan

    What happens if a ruling party has more ministerial candidates but less departments? They create more departments, right? I believe that the number of Pakistan’s political elites have increased over a period of time and we have today more candidates for chief minister’s post, so obviously four provinces are not enough, apply same function key, create more provinces.Recommend

  • Adeel

    @naveed khan:
    Even if PPP’s quest to break Punjab is politically motivated, I don’t think breaking it into more manageable administrate divisions represents a hate campaign against Punjab or its inhabitants.Recommend

  • Anonymous

    Good one. Yes, we do need more provinces for better control and governance.Recommend

  • hamzaa

    Nothing bad if we make more provinces on admisitrative bassis rather than ethnic one. It would off course increase the finacial burdon because of more heavy heads, however it may provide some relief to the masses in resolving their issues at local level.
    On the other side we have already uprooted a system of local government which was meant for addressing issues at local level. Now we are talking of the same issue but from another angle. It means we have some other objectives which are at tangent to our national objectives.Recommend

  • Shahid

    In my opinion each province should be devided into 3-4 provinces. It would not create any resentment in any one province and would administratively easy to work. However, it all depends whether we have financial resources to do it.Recommend

  • Zohaib

    I think the proposal of dividing provinces has a very negative feel to it.It brings up only negatives along ethnic lines rather than take pride in being a part of Pakistan.No administrative system could function without localised authority centres,the local government system was in essence autonomous localised adminstrative units without the hoo la la and ethnic/racial tensions present in the provinces proposal.This thing is just so emotionally charged that all i fear is it would mess up. Recommend

  • Zamiraliakhtar Kiani

    All provinces has to be only and only for administrative reasons.Only to better serve the citizenry of each prov ,to eleminate corruption which in my view is because of large it this one should ever ignore pothwar province As we left with nothing to pay more corruption to police which take as they gone to walait?Recommend


    its a good idea in punjab sariaki province long due and Hazara in KPK.Recommend

  • Karim Baloch

    Punjab is a construct of Mughals and then the British, it is not a territory made by consensus or any natural agreement of the indigenous peoples who we now call ‘Punjabis’. The Mughals first drew the boundaries of Punjab and gave to them the name Punjab for that region. Before that it had no name or identity different from Hindustan. The British later redrew the boundaries of Punjab after the conquest of the little Sikh kingdom of Ranjeet Singh. It was only during British era that later people from there began identifying themselves as Punjabis collectively regardless of their caste or religion. But this is not the case for Baluch, Pashtuns or Sindhis who have a much older history and their identities were not a construct of others nor forced on them from the outside as is evident from the identification of these peoples in their own litery histories – unlike the Punjabis who’s poets and sages before 18th century that composed in the language we now call Punjabi never identified themselves as such nor made reference to any such place as Punjab because frankly it just did not exist. Even Nanak founder of the Sikhs did not mention the name Punjab in his writings nor did Babur in his Baburnama because there was no Punjab or Punjabis until foreign rulers invented this identity for them. Thefore it is nonsense to try and compare situation of Baluch, Pashtun and Sindhis with that of Punjab. In India they were astute enough to know this and so reversed the British-version of Punjab into a more natural state.

    Pashtun-dominated northern districts of Baluchistan historically were not Baluch territory but belong to the original Afghanistan before British era. There is no reason why these districts should not be merged into Pakhtunkhwa province and let the entire Pashtun population live within their own historical boundaries to reverse the imposed borders drawn on them by British then Pakistan. It will be beneficial for Baluch too for these districts to be ceded from Baluchistan.Recommend

  • D. Ajmal

    I would like to see Pakistan have as many provinces as possible.
    For starters, we should match the number of states that India has.
    The ratio of provinces should be such:
    Punjab: 4
    Sindh: 3
    KP: 2
    Baluchistan: 1
    This is very important, because Punjab, the higher the number of
    provinces hewn from it, the smaller and more atomised it will be.
    This can only be good for the rest of the Pakistani union and
    prevent our disintegration. Recommend

  • Arif Qureshi

    Personally I believe that we should proceed with establishing new provinces but dividing them truthfully. Why? Because if you see current census of Pakistan, it is not fair that rural population leads rest of civilized and high end educated population. Not to discriminate anyone but education is the one source that grants person to make a better decision for to have a better life. I care for Pakistan however this is a current need to bring a better Pakistan in the picture. Having it said that this will also allow pushing back feudalism which is killing Pakistan’s ability to success. But it is very important to have a pure intention behind new provinces establishment and to lead this country on a better track. More importantly, first to resolve basic people’s issues such as electricity issue/controlling rising prices/check balance sheet for each dept plus to register govt. agencies in audit.

    Now question is how “honest” is our current political system in Pakistan?

    Personally, I don’t have any faith on any political parties in the country and this is a MAJOR issue. Until they proof and change them self sincerely, it is not such a good idea to establishment of any new provinces. Thank you.

    Arif Qureshi

  • rashid

    Daer all i am from multan by birth its not making an other provence its just managing the rest of politicans to get more comfertable ways to eat the rest of pakistan,these are not sincear people these are animals that feed on dead debris.may all of them go to hellRecommend

  • MKhan

    In my opinion it makes sense to make each Division in to a province. That would be a total of 36. That would be administrative and not ethnic.
    Just to put things in prospective, Punjab is larger in population than any individual country in European Union. Turkey with similar area as Pakistan and less than half the population has 81 provinces. USA is little less than double the population of Pakistan and has 50 states.

    Perhaps we can have 10 MNAs from each province to have equal representation. Recommend

  • Syed

    Nicely written. Good thoughtful contributions from the readers too. Smaller units will certainly get the benefit which is badly required for the progress and development of Pakistan. Recommend

  • Khalid Naeem

    Pakistan should be divided into at least 25 States on AMINITRATIVE grounds. Old Divisions can be declared a State. Each State to have an Assembly, Elected Governor, University, State Court(High Court), Industrial area etc. Regionalism without any linguistic or ethnic divide will help a stronger federation. Further subdivisions should be at Tehsil Level(can be called Counties) and Districts should be ababdoned. For exampple Lahore Division could be made Lahore State/Province with all the Tehsils of Lahore, Shekhopura, Okara & Kasur. Divisions are already functioning units and it would be easy to just declare them a province or a State.
    New name of Pakistan could be just Pakistan or United States of Pakistan Recommend

  • http://hotmail Amar

    One should focus on the real Cause of unrest. Its based on Economic reasons, its not political.

    The real cause is inflation, unemployment, and load-shedding etc

    They must construct more dams, atomic power house, Solar power houses and Mill wind Farms so that more and more Electricity may be generated. Only Wind Mills at coastal areas can generate so much Electricity that they can provide it Free of Cost to each citizen of Pakistan. This can end the economic crisis.

    No more provinces , but more power houses , and more dams.

    May Allah Bless Pakistan.Recommend

  • Omar

    First of all new provinces are not being created on ethnic lines, but on administrative basis, that is some areas are less empowered like Bahawalpur and surroundings in punjab , Hazara in KPK. Now this issue is being made blurred by making alot of fuss demands and ideas like :

    1) PPP is making having conspiracy against Punjab ?….MQM Quaid Altaf has
    demanded so many times the provinces of Sriaki area and Hazara, PML-Q , PML-Z and
    many other parties which are representative to voice of people demand for Bahawalpur.
    2) Why is sindh not being divided while Punjab is on target ? There is no crisis of
    mal adminsitration and empowerment in Karachi and Hyderabad that are highly
    empowered and administered cities of sindh just as Islamabad and Lahore of Punjab. So
    it is no comparison in matter of Bahawalpur and no comparison of Sindh and Punjab.
    3) Hazara as a new province and KPK : As a popular demand of people of that region
    it is in the interest of united Pakistan to create a new province in KPK.
    4) Baluchistan and new provinces: Balochistan is one of the provinces which is always
    uncontrolled since independence. It is old policy [ DIVIDE AND RULE] Balochistan
    should be divided in an order so that people of this province come in better mainstream
    of governement than that of Lords of areas, who are keeping baloches as poor slaves
    and moving on their orders, they need freedom from their local lords (Waderas and
    Sardars). It will help reduce mutiny emotions in Balochistan.Balochistan must be divided
    for better administration as it is a great strategic and economic hub in Pakistan.

    5) Why Punjab must be divided in provinces, at least two or more ? : Since creation of
    Pakistan the hegemonic and totaltarian control over paksitan politics of Punjab.If any
    party wins in punjab rules all over pakistan and keep satistfying needs of Punjab only
    while other provinces remain devoid of rights and funds , even some areas of punjab
    face such situations.It has been giving rise to sentiments of inequality and
    disappointment leading to risks of united Pakistan. This is overpowering role of Punjab
    we lost East Pakistan, unrest in Balochistan and anti-Pakistan movements and
    organizations in Sindh. In order to have a stronger Pakistan. Punjab and Balochistan
    must be divided either on administrative or ethnicity basis. Recommend

  • Nafisa

    Beyond excellent piece.
    Clear cut and to the point.

  • MAD

    @D. Ajmal:

    You have a point. the 11 province formula makes sense. add to that giggit baltistatn although im not sure if its a province or not,Recommend

  • http://deleted tariq aziz

    karachi needs to be divided up immediately as the govt. has proved over the last 3 years that karachi is not needs to be divided into two as as it already has a population of over 20 million.Recommend

  • Tanzeel

    Yes we want – Urban Sindh as a separate province. Recommend

  • waheeda

    a very long thought…but ur only looking at the positive side of this issue. And this is the only a rumor of ppp’s for other parties. why the hell they should make new provinces when they can not hold older one? Problem is are we enough stabalized to uphold a new province? Or if we divide punjab do the newer one would be safe from courruption? More provinces will divide people..cuz if a siraiki gets a province then hazara people will also stand for there another ‘SUBA’
    I think we have forgotten that time when only N.W.F.P’s name was changed and hazara people protested it. Its a bitter truth that ppp is only doing this for their own benefit to stay long and to change other parties(MQM,PML-N),etc mind on what they get from their govt!Recommend

  • Arif Qureshi

    All the leaders in the big political parties are bunch of butchers. They all want this country to be in pieces anyways.
    What happen to Quaid’s Pakistan? Where all the promises are gone being a ONE Muslim omha’s when we all migrated to seek better Muslim country?
    Where these leaders come from? Who are these people? They have no sympathy to local people and they are trying to stand a brother against brother just for the sake of their own agendas. For God sake people of Pakistan WAKE UP!!! Before you are become slave to your own… These political parties have murdered their own people and continuing…Bribing is become a common practice in the cities (Asthukfirullah) because what they have damages. They have even quotas for buying and selling professions no merit exists at all. What kind of religion practice are we doing to server our communities? These remote and local crooked rich leaders are curse to this nation. If one of us changes not to do evil, it’s all matters!
    This is a month of Ramadan and i have asked to my Allah give all these crook leaders a better place in HELL! They are trying to separate brothers to brothers and keep igniting the fire among all for their own agendas…
    Salam & Thank youRecommend

  • Yasir Mehmood

    @Karim Baloch
    The logic you are putting forward means that Pakistan should be integrated to india and some part into Afghanistan since nobody knew about it a century ago!. I think we should proceed with an open minded modern approach, intended solely for the development of under developed areas. I believe each and every province in this country be divded into smaller units, keeping in view there is no urban or rural bias in the newly created provinces. One more thing dividing punjab is not the solution for underdeveloped areas of Balochistan or KP infact it will give more political power to areas in Punjab as it will have more seats in senate and more Budget allocation, as there would be more govenments in place instead of one.Recommend

  • Arif Qureshi

    .”Open minded modern approach”?? Do we have this in our current system? Or have our past governments provided to the country as of yet? Country is operating under feudalism or i would say country is controlling by 70% of illiteracy and you are talking about open minded modern approach…. Correction is needed only in the current corrupt system to avoid all the conflicts.Recommend

  • Omar

    Provinces shouldn’t be made on urban or rural basis, it is a stupid demand, but on administrative basis and it should be a new province but on a popular demand of masses backed by political parties of region of urban sindh. It is not gonna happen by some voices like you and wall chalking in Karachi by some immature youngsters. Recommend

  • Arif Qureshi

    Well the problem is the whole country are running by some juvenile politicians their thinking abilities are limited to a chalk slate and brain works like a water sponge. We need experience management who can utilize and correct within the resources instead expanding it and making it more problematic. What need to correct are the current policies to implement on current urban and rural areas first. Jumping on other toys before putting other one in the box, it’s going to be a mess and I called this is total immaturity.


  • Arif Qureshi


    Well the problem is the whole country running by some juvenile politicians their thinking abilities are limited to a chalk slate and brain works like a water sponge. We need advance experienced management in the country who can utilize and correct within the resources instead expanding it and making it more problematic. What needs to correct are the current policies to implement on recent urban and rural areas first. Jumping on other toys before not putting other one in the box, it’s going to be a mess and I called this is a total immaturity.

  • Arif Qureshi

    “Happy Independence Day to you All” Even though we may share different views but we are all Pakistani and care for the country. Please do the Best you can do for this country to easy others that would ease you too. Please do share the link with others.Salam

  • My Name is Khan

    Honestly, I feel a lot of the discussion around new provinces has less to do with solving actual problems. than it does to helping politicians. The easier and better solution is to create stronger systems of local governance and make sure funds flow properly to the local level.

    Punjab may be a very large state population wise but India has Uttar Pradesh which is much larger. Large states in India like Gujrat have good governance. Recommend

  • Andrea

    @Omar: What doesn’t make sense is to divide Punjab when it is the best administered province in the country. Perhaps this is the real reason why some quarters want to divide Punjab. For selfish political reasons. All I see in making more provinces is creating more layers of corrupt administrators and vips to do corruption. Good management has nothing to do with creating more provinces but with the administration. To punish the Punjab because it is better managed than Sind, Baluchistan or Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is non sensical.Recommend

  • Tatom

    Nice analysis … I think the most important thing is that there is no wrong with the division of provinces on even ethnic lines provided the will behind it is uplifting the life of peopleRecommend

  • Junaid

    Some news paper say that no of new provicance in Pakistan Total 21even lahore and multan make new proviacne remember the new proviance does not badly effect our Army, Air Force and NavyRecommend