Since 1977, military or quasi-military governments have ruled Pakistan. The basic tenet of such a governance structure has been centralization and denial of multiple identities that Pakistanis have. Recent reform via the 18th Amendment has opened up a debate on new provinces. Not long ago, division of provinces was a taboo. Not anymore. This by itself is a major victory of the quasi-democratic process since 2008, howsoever flawed and contradictory it might be.
Remember this is a country where the largest federating unit – East Pakistan (Bengal) was denied its due in power and resources leading to the tragic events of 1971. From 1955-1970, ethnic, linguistic and local identities were forcibly negated under the One Unit. After the creation of Bangladesh, the federal debate focused on Punjab versus the rest of Pakistan. Even the elected Prime Minsiter, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto ordered Army operations in Balochsitan and the North West Frontier Province to quell insurgencies and demands for local autonomy. Zia’s rule (1977-88) was a major setback to the federal project as Sindh was at the receiving end and the smaller provinces were remote-controlled from Islamabad. During the decade of democracy (1988-1999), things improved but only marginally. (more…)