LAHORE - Distribution of power between the federation and federating units, an essential attribute of federalism, is one of the most contentious issues in the polity of Pakistan. These views were expressed by speakers at a dialogue on provincial autonomy, jointly organised by the Women Workers Help Line (WWHL) and ACTIONAID Pakistan held here at a local hotel on Wednesday. A large number of political and social activists and civil society representatives' participated in the dialogue "Though enshrined in the Constitution of 1973 and the Lahore Resolution of 1940, the provincial autonomy has neither been honoured nor been implemented because of peculiar political situation created by authoritative military regimes", they observed. The speakers were of the view that lack of provincial autonomy caused dismemberment of the country in 1971 and which continues to erode people's trust in centre owing to the federal government's greater say in legislative affairs, frequent meddling into administrative affairs of the provinces, unilateral decisions regarding mega projects, reducing provinces' control over their natural resources, and apathetic attitude towards promotion of local languages and cultures. Professor Rasul Bukhsh Raees, a political analyst, while addressing on the occasion said the provincial autonomy debate was not simple in Pakistan, where many distinct ethnic groups like Hindkos of NWFP and Siraikis of Punjab, who have not been given any constitutional status, deem enhanced autonomy to their respective provinces as instrument further subjugation and oppression. He threw light on the theoretical aspect of State formation. He said the provincial autonomy was very important issue. The state building and nation building are two different processes and reciprocate each other but unfortunately people take the processes one and same. He said it is not Federation which forms a state but it is provinces and nationalities which form Federation. So the process of Federation formation starts from below. Same is the case with Pakistan which was actually formed by the federating units. But with the passage of time the state gets stronger and stronger and federating units get weaker and weaker. He told the audience that there was strong movement of nationalities for autonomy in India and the state of India granted the autonomy, which, as result strengthened the federation in that country. He said provincial autonomy was not a fixed idea, as it was conditional with the objective realities and sometime provinces may withdraw their certain rights in favor of centre voluntarily. But in case of Pakistan, the strong federation has snatched due rights of the smaller provinces. IA Rehman, Director HRCP speaking on the occasion said the question of the provincial autonomy was no more relevant now, as lot of water had flowed under the bridge. He said Balochs do not want autonomy but they want to go beyond the concurrent list or Federal list. He said the smaller provinces had been betrayed by the centre to the extent during the last 60 years that now they were not ready to fight for the provincial autonomy and the centre itself had been weakened. IA Rehman said the federating units could only get autonomy in democratic system. It is impossible to get provincial autonomy or rights for smaller nationalities in an autocratic military regime or religious regime as both Mullah and Military are centrist forces and they do not believe in decentralization of power. President National Workers Party (NWP) Abid Hasan Manto addressing the forum said in a military regime powers are not only snatched from provinces but also from the centre and these powers are vested in the GHQ. He said our party wanted to see the provinces powerful with complete autonomy and the center should have only four departments; armed forces, communication, foreign affairs and currency. Rest of the powers should be vested in the provinces. He said the Concurrent list should be abolished forthwith and the Federal list be drafted where revenue collection rights should be transferred to the provinces. Critiquing the role of armed forces in politics, he said the armed forces of Pakistan were no more an institution rather it had become a private company being run by military junta. He urged the participants to launch struggle to permanently oust army out of politics as it was not possible through any legal amendment. Hamid Khan, a leader of Tehrik-e-Insaf said the centrist forces including civil and military bureaucracy and feudals were the real hurdles in the way of provincial autonomy. He said the Council of Common Interests (CCI) is the institution which meant to protect rights of provinces. But this most powerful institution after Parliament has been rendered to rubber stamp by the centrist forces, he lamented. Criticising the PPP-led government, he said it was unable to deliver as the power has not been transferred to new government and Musharraf mafia was still powerful. That is why the prime minister was unable to remove even governors or Attorney General, he added. Criticizing the current electoral system he said it was not serving the purpose of real democracy. As the ruling class is the only beneficiary of this system. Only proportionate representation system can ensure and translate the real representation into the parliament. Ahsan Waeen, central general secretary of Awami National Party said the concept of provincial autonomy had changed and it could not be taken in the sense being termed in the last 60 years. The repeated military takeovers have wreaked the federation. He said that Musharraf regime had put military men pensions under civilian budget to conceal the rising budget for army. Ghulam Abbas, PPP provincial general secretary, said it were not only provinces but the poor people of Punjab who were facing discrimination at the hands of the ruling class of Punjab. He said that superior judiciary was equally responsible for creating mess in the country along with army, feudals and bureaucrats. It is the judges who commit judicial murders of popular political leaders and side with military dictators. Farooq Tariq, sokesperson of the Labour Party of Pakistan, fully supported the province demand for autonomy and held the ruling classes responsible for resentment among provinces. He said the total budget for Balochistan for 2004 was equal to that of the budget of Gujrat, one district of Punjab. Such deprivations are causing deprivations, which are main cause of Balochis taking gun into their hands. He urged the working classes to launch joint struggle for social justice and peoples rights over their natural resources. Professor Akram Meerani, Hasan Raza Shah of Pakistan Saraiki Party and Mazhar Lashari also spoke on the occasion.