For quite some time echoes for creation of more provinces have been resonating in the country with fluctuating intensity in the demand for them. We have heard demands for creation of a new province of South Punjab, restoration of the state of Bahawalpur, carving out of Hazara province from the present KPK and making Karachi a separate governing unit. The arguments in favour of the creation of more provinces usually have been poor governance, lack of development and distance factor from the provincial capitals.

In the present scenario the move by PTI for creation of South Punjab and a bill already pending in the parliament introduced by the PML (N) for the creation of the province of South Punjab and Bahawalpur are quintessential of the politicians and parties trying to exploit permeating political ambience for their narrow political ends. Carving out new provinces from the existing provinces would require approval from the two-third majority of the respective legislatures as well as a similar nod from the parliament which looks a distant possibility in view of the ambience of confrontation unleashed by the PTI government through selective accountability of the opposition leaders. Even if by any chance the concerned parties agree to the propositions as a result of give and take, the creation of new provinces under the present system of governance and the existing mode of electing the representatives on the basis of single constituency, is not going to resolve the real issues which are advanced as arguments for the balkanization of the existing provinces. It would lead only to the creation of more centers of power to the advantage of the vested interests with the elitist class and feudal lords belonging to the concerned areas becoming the new rulers.

The real issue is of good governance. The successive governments have failed to deliver to the people because of the perpetuation of the archaic colonial system of governance which has in built avenues of graft and entitlement. The solution lies in two things i.e. establishment of the local governments in conformity with Article 140 A and changing the way we elect our representatives. Our constitution stipulates three-tier system of governance comprising local government, provincial government and the federal government. Local Bodies are meant to deliver to the people at the grass-root level and according to article 140A are supposed to enjoy almost plenipotentiary powers in regards to running the affairs of their respective territorial domains. The article reads “Each province shall, by law establish a local government system and devolve political, administrative and financial responsibility and authority to the elected representatives of the local governments”

Under this article the local administration (including policing) is supposed to be under the elected people at the district level who are responsible for overseeing the administration besides carrying out development projects and having powers to generate financial resources of their own. Bringing the police under control of the local government can greatly help in eliminating the ‘Thana Culture’ and giving back their honour to the people.

Unfortunately the country never had a system of local government in accordance with the spirit of the constitution. The successive representative governments actually showed criminal reluctance to fulfill this constitutional requirement. The local bodies that were set up in the country after the orders of the Supreme Court were actually a negation of the Article 140 A as the administrative and policing responsibilities were never devolved to them. Even their role in the development was also very limited. Most of the funds were given to the MNAs and MPAs as a bribe to keep their loyalties intact. The local body system introduced by PTI in KPK and of late in Punjab though represents some improvement in the system as far as the role of the local government in the development of their respective areas and the finances are concerned but it is still bereft of financial and administrative powers stipulated by the constitution. It is perhaps pertinent to mention that Imran Khan while presenting his radical agenda in the public rally at Iqbal Park Lahore on 30th October 2011 among other things promised to have the SHOs elected like the sheriffs in the western countries, a pledge he might have forgotten like many others in his quest for reaching the corridors of power by any means.

The people do not need more provinces on administrative or ethno-linguistic basis. They want and need their problems to be resolved at the local level which can be done only through strengthening the local government as per the constitution and implementation of the eighteenth amendment in letter and spirit. It is therefore incumbent upon the political parties to shun their traditional politics of befooling the people and show honesty of purpose in resolving their problems through improved governance in consonance with the constitution. As far as providing justice to the people at their door steps or near to their homes, it can be done through setting up high court benches at every district headquarters and separating the judiciary from the administration in line with article 175(3).

At the national level it is essential to break the hold of the elitist classes and feudal lords on the political power. It can only be done by changing the present system of electing our MNAs and MPAs. In the single constituency system only wealthy people can contest the elections and instead of the party leaders the real power rests with the so-called electables who play a pivotal role in the making and breaking of regimes. Since majority of the constituencies belong to the rural and tribal areas, the prevalent system strengthens the hold of the feudal lords or the elitist classes belonging to the urban areas which have a common interest in perpetuating the archaic colonial system of governance.

The best way to break the hold of the feudal lords and the elitist classes on the political power in this country is to adopt the system of proportional representation for electing our parliamentarians. Under this system people vote for the parties rather than the individual candidates in a single constituency and the parties get representation in the parliament on the basis of the percentage of votes that they poll. The advantage of this system is that it reflects the real support for the political parties among the masses and also ensures the presence of smaller and regional parties in the parliament making the legislature a truly representative body. The party leaders are spared of the black mail of the electables and they can nominate really competent and educated people from different walks of national life to represent the party in the parliament. The system also eliminates the possibility of horse-trading and floor-crossing for personal gains as well as political engineering. To make this system really workable voting must be made compulsory so that every registered voter can exercise his right of franchise. If the political parties are really sincere in providing good governance to the people, they must cooperate with each other in introducing the required reforms in the existing system.

The writer is a freelance columnist.ashpak10@gmail.com

The real issue is of good governance. The successive governments have failed to deliver to the people because of the perpetuation of the archaic colonial system of governance which has in built avenues of graft and entitlement.