New Autonomous Provinces: The Way Forward

The first general elections in Pakistan (1970) resulted in disintegration of the state. Well they actually resulted in Sheikh Mujib’s Party winning a clear majority, which resulted in Yahya and Bhutto not wanting to hand over reigns of the country to East Pakistanis, which resulted in violent clashes, which resulted in the indo Pak war, which finally resulted in the said disintegration. In the spirit of being politically correct let’s call the whole episode “controversial” and not put blame on the then administration of Pakistan. There are many things to learn from this controversial episode. I can’t say we learnt any of them.

Forty three years later we still have a system that enables one province to dominate the Parliament. The justification for said dominance is population. Provinces have population based representation in the Parliament which results in alleged injustices to smaller provinces which results in resentment for the State which results in separatist movements which may yet again, God forbid, result in another “controversial” episode.

Regardless of the countless conspiracy theories – some of which this writer subscribes to – the fact remains that we have a dysfunctional system. Foreign involvement in promoting and encouraging terrorism and separatist agenda cannot be ignored. Nevertheless the fact that we have provided an environment conducive for these evils to grow, needs attention.

The population based representation formula seems workable on paper. But it can only work in practice where population is the only difference between the people of these provinces. Where cultures, languages, traditions and even political inclinations are dramatically different, one cannot decide their representation solely on the basis of their numbers. The people of Punjab generally support politics of right, Sindh goes for leftists, Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa has an inclination towards extreme right conservatives whereas Balochistan seems to have an inclination based on Baloch nationalism.

Our current Constitution of 1973 provides for a total 17 seats in the National Assembly for Balochistan. Punjab’s seats are 183, Sindh has 75 and KPK has 43 seats. The legislative procedure puts Punjab in a much better position than the other provinces. Same is the case for electing leader of the house which requires a simple majority in the National Assembly i.e. 172 votes, which is eleven less than the number of Punjab’s MNAs.

Even though several allegations of injustices on the federation’s part may be exaggerated or even false, the imbalance in representation does give the allegers a firm platform. The resulting provincial disharmony is a critical issue that needs immediate attention. In the humble opinion of this writer an impending crisis looms owing to ignorance of this imbalance.

Having identified the problem, what then is the solution?

It would be pointless to suggest equal representation for all provinces in the National Assembly, for that would then be an injustice with the people of Punjab who form a major part of Pakistan’s population.

The balance between provinces can be achieved, along with several other benefits like administrative efficiency, with a two tier constitutional reform.

1. Formation of new provinces on population and administrative basis.
On basis of a census (which is long overdue) the larger provinces can be divided into smaller ones, bringing them closer in representation to the already small provinces. This would make their administration easier as well.

2. Provincial Autonomy.
The Federation should further decrease its control on the financial and administrative matters of Provinces. Unlike a general view that this would weaken national integration, I believe this would only help make it stronger.

Who ya gonna blame?

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“If there’s somethin’ strange in your neighborhood
Who ya gonna call (ghostbusters)
If it’s somethin’ weird and it won’t look good
Who ya gonna call (ghostbusters)”

Today I was reminded of this very catchy theme song from the movie Ghost busters. No I did not have any encounter with ghostly entities. I just saw several politicians from PMLn and PPP blaming PTI for the humiliation that our dear Mr. Zardari Juniour went through yesterday in London. I cannot apologize for not calling him Bilawal Bhutto because I do not own a Honda Corrola.

Politicians, especially leaders from PMLN and PPP have been conditioned to believe that any and every incident of embarrassment for them is not owing to their own incompetence or questionable conduct. Instead it is the outcome of Imran Khan’s “instigation”.

“Who ya gonna blame (PTI)”

So basically if anyone anywhere shows any reaction to the political mayhem at the hands of any political party or politician you should know that reaction is not genuine. No sir! it is just a bunch of PTI goons instigating innocent naive people. I am sure had PTI not been in the scene, had Imran Khan not said all those bad things about the saints that lead these parties, then all the leaders belonging to PPP, PMLN and JUIF would have been greeted with roses, cakes and candies.

When an innocent civilian dies because the son of an ex Prime Minister is paranoid, it is not wrong or unjust at all. It is these “youthias” that portray this noble deed as evil. These goons have snatched from us the pleasure of thanking our lords for kicking our butts.

When a hardworking man was awakened in the middle of the night because of load shedding, you know what he used to do? He would thank his God and then these leaders and pray for their wellbeing. But now there are PTI ‘youthias’ who call them on their cell phones and instigate them to curse these pious ministers and leaders.

When citizens of this unfortunate land found out that they have been overpaying for a utility that they hardly ever get, they were planning a rally in support of their incompetent – if not corrupt- rulers. But these youthias, I tell you.

I am not a PTI youthia, nor am I a jiyala of any other party. But I do believe that Imran Khan deserves credit for waking this nation up. I don’t think he can be an able statesman but everyone has a role to play in God’s plan and Khan has played his role really well. It is not Khan’s instigation that has lead people to express their emotions for leaders who have deprived them of life, liberty and peace. It is his struggle that has encouraged people to think and act for themselves.

So to all who, as a defense, blame every voice that is raised against them on Khan’s instigation, I say man up, think sharp and find a better response than denial.

Vespa Pajero

I saw this stage drama when I was a kid where Umer Sharif cracked a joke about buying a “Vespa Pajero”. I found the joke very funny, but it makes a lot more sense now with the advent of “Bilawal Bhutto”.

I see more of Benazir in Imran Khan than I do in Bilawal. Zardari Junior does have an uncanny resemblance to his mother but as far as charisma and popularity go, Khan is closer to Bibi than her own son.

I will always remember the evening of 27th December, 2007. I was en route to a corner meeting after attending a Jalsa when I got a call from my mother saying Benazir has been shot. A few moments later I was told that Benazir Bhutto had been assassinated. Despite my reservations with regard to Bibi’s politics and policies, I was depressed at her death. I was contesting the election against Pakistan People’s Party, but my grief was no less than the PPP candidate. Same was the case with several of her political opponents. It’s not that Benazir Bhutto’s regimes were not marred by incompetence and corruption, but her charismatic personality, eloquence, bravery and courage made her stand out in our leader deficient nation. She just couldn’t let the safety of her person come between her and the people.

Although Bilawal is being told to act like Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto, he is neither. He can scream at the top of his voice but his actions would still be louder. I do not want to comment on his accent or pitch, these are irrelevant. But the celebrated fact that Bilawal wrote his own speech for the 18th October gathering in Karachi says a lot. Basically this was the first time that he spoke to the people. On all previous occasions he was just reading out what was written for him. Pakistan People’s Party realizes that this young kid is their last hope of survival. Playing the Bhutto card without any real Bhutto in the Party may just save them from extinction. He has been given the name, now it is time to teach him to be a Bhutto. But can a cricketer teach me how to play football? or can a soldier teach me art? Makhdooms, Shahs and Zardaris cannot teach Bilawal how to be a Bhutto, because they don’t know what it’s like to be a Bhutto.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Benazir were both highly educated with honors from the top Universities in the world. The immense confidence gained from being the best among the best of students shaped their vibrant personalities. Being well read and well versed made them eloquent speakers. Most of all they weren’t taught how to be a Bhutto, they were one. Bhutto’s motivation behind dressing casually with rolled up sleeves was that he wanted to be perceived as one of the people and not superior. Bilawal’s motivation for rolling up his sleeves is to look more like Bhutto. Bhutto would sometimes shout in his speeches charged with emotions. Bilawal randomly screams because Bhutto screamed.

Nevertheless he may successfully tap in to the Bhutto vote bank for the simple reason that a majority of voters may not remember why they loved Bhutto and his daughter. They are being told that they loved them because their last name was Bhutto, and they should love Bilawal because he too has the same last name. If it sounds absurd to you than you are not an average Pakistani.

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             If there is one exercise that has carried forward from our school days to our practical life as adults, it is the labeling of diagrams. Remember the workbooks or questions in our exams asking us to label a picture? As a society we have very aptly applied the same as a principle in our lives, only replacing diagrams with people.

• A politician who is not a member of a political party that you support ——— corrupt, dishonest, traitor.

• A politician who was corrupt and crooked but has now joined the party that you support ——— honest, patriotic, a changed man, a revolutionary.

• A journalist who writes in line with your views —————- honest professional.

• When the same journalist writes contrary to your opinions ————- lifafa journalist.

• People who question ‘the Malala story’ in any way ————– Jaahil, pro taliban conspiracy theorists.

• People who believe that ‘the Malala story’ and subsequent events are genuine ——— CIA agents.

• People with beards and caps/imamas ——————- fundamentalists, molvis.

• People who dare disagree with our understanding of Islam ———— kaafir.

• A woman who is bold, confident and independent ————— behaya.

The Sacred Goat

In an ancient African village called ‘Ja ha laat’ it was believed that goats are sacred, divine beings. Villagers followed the teachings of their ancestors who believed that goats can bring much benefit to humans and unlike other animals, can bring no harm, which led them to believe that goats are sacred. The socio political status in the village depended upon how many goats one owned. Abubu was the village leader, since he owned 20 goats. Abubu wasn’t the wisest. The wisest man in the village was Kunte, who owned no goats. The entire village was satisfied being led by Abubu and did whatever Abubu asked of them. Kunte was however averse to the idea of following an idiot just because he had more goats than the rest. There were others who did not like the idea but for different reasons. They did not want to challenge the idea of socio political status depending on the number of goats, instead they wanted to be in Abubu’s place. These five men and Kunte were the intelligent men, the only intelligent men in a village of one thousand people.

One day these five men decided to act on their idea of replacing Abubu, so they devised a plan. Each brought a goat from his herd. They took the five goats to the jungle and slaughtered them. The meat was used to lure a lion into their trap. For two weeks they fed the lion with goat meat. Once satisfied that the lion was tamed enough, they brought him to the village at night. Every night they would let the lion loose and he would hunt and eat one of the goats of the villagers. They invited villagers, few at a time, to come see the large goat they had captured. The villagers were skeptical initially but the shrewd men easily convinced the simpletons that, since it walked on four legs, the lion was just a large goat.

One by one the lion ate Abubu’s goats. Abubu protested that there was a beast who was eating his goats. The villagers, wanting to help their leader, offered to keep watch at night to keep the suspected beast out. That night three hundred villagers formed a circle around the village yet found no beast coming in or going out. The next morning yet another goat had vanished. Abubu called a village meeting, only the second meeting in his tenure as their leader. He told the villagers that the five men owned the beast and it wasn’t a goat. One of the five men proposed putting the lion’s real identity to vote. As expected a majority of the villagers voted goat and so Abubu had to withdraw his allegation.

Eventually the lion had eaten all the goats in the village and he was the only goat left. The lion then started eating people. Abubu was his first kill. The five men were now leaders because they owned the only goat in the village. Villagers came complaining that their goat was eating them.

‘We can’t kill our goat, it is sacred. Do you want us to kill the sacred goat?’ the five men asked the villagers.

‘NO’, was always the reply.

The lion kept eating the villagers, who would often wonder what had gotten into this large goat. No one would attack or try to kill it because they were made to believe that it was a goat and because they were made to believe it was sacred.

The village perished centuries ago. Though ‘the goat’ still lives, we call it democracy.