The centralised military bureaucratic establishment loves to devolve power and authority to the local level because it poses no political threat to it. It is designed to be apolitical. When its turn comes, the political class perceives it as a threat and loses no time in putting an end to any semblance of local governance.
This is unfortunate because the increasing difficulty of securing one’s life and livelihood is happening at the local level, far removed from the radar screens not only of provincial and federal governments but also provincial assemblies and the parliament. All kinds of interpretations have been made of the recent uprising of Hazarawals but none sticks as much as the plain fact that the people have risen in their own defence and for their own rights.
There is enough historical evidence to demonstrate that once a spontaneous uprising of the people takes place leaders and interests of all hues and shape are drawn into it. The PML-Q is visible for it thinks it has found a popular cause to come alive again. The PML-N leaders cannot let that happen. Even the Awami National Party MPAs from Hazara can be seen doing their bit. The NGOs in the area were in the forefront of naming a Shaheed Chowk in Abbottabad after those who died as a result of the brutality unleashed by state actors.
That the Hazara movement is led by a former nazim with an association with the PML-Q is less important than the fact that all and sundry are in it. The leadership and the led have made it clear that the Hazarawals should have the right to solve their own problems rather than having them solved by a distant Peshawar. At play here are the experiences of the leader as a nazim and the apathy of the distant deliverers that his flock sees in their ordinary business of life.
If the political class abhors local governance, then smaller and more provinces is the answer. A province, with all the trappings of power, is a political theatre and the politicians would love to be on stage to be governors, chief ministers and ministers. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa satisfies a national aspiration of the Pakhtuns and they are entitled to it. But it nevertheless remains a mere name change and many doubt whether it will bring any improvement in the life of an ordinary Pakhtun.
It is the same province and the same government. In the case of Hazara, governance will be closer to the governed. It will open new avenues for local politicians, the bureaucracy and the unemployed. The population may be small and sparse but the location of the two largest sources of hydropower – Tarbela and Bhasha – will earn it enough royalty to become self-sustaining. It is also a tourist heaven, waiting to be marketed for bigger bucks. The Hazarawals, educated as well as uneducated, tend to migrate in search of opportunities elsewhere. Hazara suba is likely to slow down this emigration.
However, an intelligent strategy to develop education and skills to export manpower will bring back remittances. Given a low industrial potential, this may be the wiser course. With backwardness now part of the National Finance Commission criteria, Hazara will get a reasonable share from the divisible pool.Hazara shows that the route to better local governance is through smaller provinces. But the formation of the provinces should be achieved democratically, not like the apolitical devolution of the Musharraf era. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa was backed up by an elected provincial assembly. Referendum should be the basis of creating new provinces.
The writer served as chief economist of Pakistan during the last government ([email protected])
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