New provinces

Published: January 10, 2012
The writer is assistant professor of history at Forman Christian College and an editor at Oxford University Press

The writer is assistant professor of history at Forman Christian College and an editor at Oxford University Press

Recently, the debate over the creation of new provinces has steamed up. Various political parties have supported the idea of new provinces and the MQM has even tabled a resolution in the parliament for the creation of the Hazara and Seraiki provinces. But before we jump into political point scoring on the issue, we need to understand a few things.

New provinces are created for various reasons. Primary among them is the administrative reason that a province has become so large, in terms of population, that adequate provision of public services to the people is not possible without carving out smaller units. However, in reality, political considerations often overshadow the reasonable administrative and welfare reasons and create further complications. In our current debate over new provinces, let us remember that the creation of newer units obviously has a political dimension but the primary consideration must be the welfare of the people.

The current debate centres around two regions: the Seraiki area in southern Punjab and the Haraza region on the Frontier. The main impetus behind these movements is that of language. The Hazarewal speak Hindko and are mostly non-Pakhtun, while southern Punjab speaks Seraiki. Aside from these linguistic differences, we need to recall how both these areas became a part of their current provinces.

The history of the Hazara region is peculiar in that it has changed hands several times in the last few hundred years. From being a tribal-run society, it became a part of the Sikh empire in the early 19th century, followed by British rule, after a brief interlude of Kashmiri Dogra rule. Thereafter, in 1901, it became a part of the now-defunct North West Frontier Province which was composed of the five non-Punjabi frontier districts of Punjab. It is important to remember here that the main impetus for creating this new province was not the separation of non-Punajabis from the majority community, but to ensure a firm hand on the Frontier during the Great Game syndrome. Therefore, little attention was given to the fact that different ethnicities and languages were being mixed in the new province. Tight government control and the disputes with Afghanistan over the Durand Line meant that there was little room for renegotiation of boundaries in the region in later years.

The Seraiki belt is also an interesting region, since it is actually composed of two different areas. The Multan division which was once a great province under the Mughals, forms one part of it, while the second part consists of the erstwhile princely state of Bahawalpur. The region of Multan was only brought under Punjabi control under the Sikh empire, while Bahawalpur remained a princely state throughout Sikh and British rule. As a matter of fact, after Bahawalpur acceded to Pakistan, it was given full provincial status, at par with the other former British India provinces, in 1953. It is also a historical fact that Bahawalpur merged with the West Pakistan province in 1955, and not with Punjab. It was only in 1969 with the dissolution of the One Unit that Bahawalpur was unceremoniously merged with Punjab (just as Khairpur which also had provincial status was merged with Sindh). Before Bahawalpur was merged in the One Unit, it had an exemplary record as a constitutional monarchy in welfare provision for its people. The state had an excellent free education system, good hospitals, an ever-expanding road network and a booming industrial sector. The merger of this princely state with West Pakistan and later Punjab, stunted development in the area and created tensions which are now precipitating calls for a division of Punjab.

With the history of these two regions in mind, it is no wonder that support for these two areas attaining provincial status is strong. There is no reason why the Hazarewals need to stay in a province which now clearly identifies with an ethnicity and language they do not share and the Seraiki people, especially in the Bahawalpur region, have a right to reclaim their old status as a province in Pakistan. However, what must be remembered is that any new provinces should be self-sustaining and not dependent on the central government for development, or else the mere replication of provincial structures further will do little to alleviate the sufferings of the people.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 10th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (20)

  • Proud Pakistani Pakthoon
    Jan 10, 2012 - 12:45AM

    DON’T think it’s a good idea..Recommend

  • muhammad faraz
    Jan 10, 2012 - 12:48AM

    why no new province for the muhajir community in sindh? why only punjab is being targetted? the ppp and mqm have the clear majority in sindh assembly,they should first build a new province in sindh and then worry about other provinces later.


  • saba mahmood
    Jan 10, 2012 - 12:50AM

    if the saraiki people are being given a new province,then the urdu speaking people in sindh should aslo be given a new province of our own.the people we vote for should give attention to their constituency first please.


  • hafsa asif
    Jan 10, 2012 - 12:56AM

    new provinces can only be made by two thirds majority in the provincial assemblies,not the national assembly.since,ppp and mqm have more than two thirds in the sindh assembly,they should start by making a new province out of the sindh province.


  • Ali Tanoli
    Jan 10, 2012 - 1:07AM

    @ Bangash sahab
    What a explaination sir can i say something here please no disrespect sir but Mughals were not pukhtuns and now a days peoples calls them pukhtun warriors i dont why and most of Tanawal area where i am belong to were came to this area first with Ibrahim lodhi (i think not
    pukhtun) then Abdali he was not pakhtun too and Ayub khan was tareen back ground not pukhtun right sir any who care then why peoples of Kohestan and many parts of Hazara speaks pushto ? and why peshawer speaks pushto by the way in kohat area peoples speaks Hindko who knows why and in Afghanistan there are area called Tanawal Dera may be it was
    some mistakes any way sikhs never rules Tanawal area they went to peshawer and then up to Khandahar area and one last thing demand of provinces are Discrimination with local area peoples not a language there are many peoples belong to pathan roots in south punjab and in Hazara riegen. personaly i would love to called my self muslim pakistani with Turkish roots.


  • Umar Gujjar
    Jan 10, 2012 - 3:53AM

    This is the best article that I have seen on new provinces controversy. I agree with most of what the author has to say. However, it should be remembered that Saraiki, until recently, was considered a dialect of Punjabi. Moreover, even now, its vocabulary is same as Punjabi, and Punjabi and Saraiki are mutually intelligible languages. Other than Balochi settlers in some district bordering Balochistan, most of the people of south Punjab are ethnically similar to people of north Punjab–Jat, Rajputs, Arains and others. South Punjab needs more development money, but to say that Northern and Southern Punjabis are of different ethnicity is a far fetched idea mostly advocated for selfish reasons.


  • Jehanzeb
    Jan 10, 2012 - 4:14AM

    While we are at it, we should also start talking of the Pothwari Suba. Potohar is as different from the central Punjab, in language and culture, as the Saraiki belt. A shrewd political party can weaken the hold of the PML-N from Potohar by espousing the separate Pothowari province. This slogan can be a game changer in the northern Punjab during next election.


  • Jan 10, 2012 - 4:30AM

    Basically Pakistan needs a strong local government with constitutional guarantees.The provincial government should lay down the laws but implementation should be with the local authorities.


  • Umar
    Jan 10, 2012 - 7:58AM

    Why not make provinces on the lines of old Divisional system.Lets make 30 provinces. There were 26 divisions, plus now we can have Gilgit, Baltistan and make two more out of FATA, make them on administrative lines not on ethnic bases. And dont forget to give them proper provincial autonomy.


  • Mirza
    Jan 10, 2012 - 9:40AM

    One of the best Op Ed on this subject. Thanks for basing your argument on historical facts and not fiction. Let history repeat itself.


  • Kafka
    Jan 10, 2012 - 11:11AM

    A very good and well researched article ! I may add that state of Swat had a similar status as Bahawalpur and it was also a welfare state. Another powerful point behind making new provinces is the fact that the population of this country has increased many folds since independence. So there is a need to create more administrative units. I would in fact propose abolishing of provinces and setting up a system of states, like US or India.


  • PakiKaka
    Jan 10, 2012 - 11:45AM

    If you have to base the creation of provinces on languages or ethnicity then there is ample reason to create many more provinces. It is not a good idea to create provinces on ethnicity lines. I say make more provinces on considerations other than ethnicity and make many more provinces not just two. Not only will it make them administratively manageable, which will in turn cure a lot of social ills, but also create more employment in the public sector.Recommend

  • kkkkkk
    Jan 10, 2012 - 11:58AM

    Bangash for the first time, u came to describe some thing close to the reality….


  • A.Khan
    Jan 10, 2012 - 5:12PM

    Sweden is almost half of Pakistan, in terms of area and it has 24 provinces which makes things easier for managers to manage resources.


  • H. Hakeem
    Jan 10, 2012 - 5:55PM

    No doubt, the historical discourse of these regions stands paramount for the creation of provinces into a better welfare region BUT don’t you think this would lead to the multiplication of present political apparatus that operates to sustain crooks feeding on corruption?


  • Hameedullah
    Jan 10, 2012 - 8:21PM

    At the time of Partition, Karachi was the capital of Sindh. It was considered essentially a Sindhi city with approximately 1,400 schools whose medium of instruction was Sindhi.

    Then started the conversion of a Sindhi city into what is now termed as a `miniPakistan`. A large number of migrants from India, helped by settlement policies found their way to the city and made it their home. Other nationalities also gravitated towards Karachi because of its financial and industrial vibrancy.

    The residents of Sindh with whom the ownership of Karachi rests never consented. This backdrop is not con-ducive in any way to the formation of a legitimate separate province.Recommend

  • Baloch
    Jan 10, 2012 - 10:57PM

    While it will be more work for children to memories new provinces, I think it will make things more manageable for local government. This way no one can blame central government.


  • Ali Tanoli
    Jan 11, 2012 - 2:50AM

    One last thing in the words of Baba Bulleh Shaah (great punjabi sufi poet) he said this.
    Othe Amlan De Hone Nabere – Kisi Na Teri zaat puchni.


  • Feb 7, 2012 - 1:59PM

    A cpolue of years ago my wife and I travelled from Boston, Massachusettes up to the White Mountains then across to Bar Harbour. Down the coast then back to Boston. The coastal regions are a joy to behold and in the article above you could draw similarities. What gets you is the sense of space and openness of the landscape. We were able to do this over a one week drive.This part of Canada looks ideal and very tempting to explore.RegardsRogerRecommend

  • Feb 7, 2012 - 7:29PM

    I think since population is expanding and economic problems are becoming more complex subdivisions into smaller provinces is desirable.

    This should be done gradually and democratically, according to the Constitution.


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