27 Apr

Introduction :

A federal system like ours thrives when control and authority are distributed rather than centralized.

Condition in Other Countries :

Area wise, Turkey is a smaller country than Pakistan, but it has 81 provinces for governance. Despite being smaller, our neighboring country Afghanistan has 34 provinces.. Similarly, Taiwan, a tiny island, has 22 divisions to run day-to-day affairs effectively. In the best interest of all stakeholders, it's imperative that the Southern Province of Punjab (Seraiki Province) doesn't evolve into another divisive Kalabagh issue. The province can also serve as the pilot project to set the course of the other provinces in due time

The Constitution and the New Provinces :

In matters concerning the alteration of provincial boundaries, Article 239(4) of the 1973 Constitution stipulates a procedure necessitating a two-thirds majority vote from the total number of provincial assembly members.

The Demand for the Hazara Province :

The renaming of NWFP to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa sparked demands for a Hazara province. The recent merger of Fata with KP, enlarging its territory and population, presents a significant test case.


1. Increase in Population:

  • Meanwhile, Punjab constitutes 26 percent of the area of the country and 52.95% of the population; here, there are demands for the creation of the Seraiki and Bahawalpur provinces.
  • Let's start with some basic facts. We have over 242.8 million people in this country, spread over four provinces, two federal territories and two autonomous territories.
  • The demand for the former is rooted in ethnic considerations, while the latter's demand has a historical foundation.

2. Distance from the Seat of Government in the Far Flung Areas

  • In Punjab, Lahore is about 300 kilometers away from Multan, while in Sindh, Kashmore is about 600 km from Karachi. Similarly, from Gwadar to Quetta is nearly 1,000km.
  • These distances underscore the reality that citizens of these towns must undertake at least a day's journey to reach the provincial government's seat for any matters requiring their attention.

3. Judicious and Equitable Spending of Funds in Case of More Provinces

More provinces also mean funds are transferred to more areas that can then decide to use them as they wish. In Punjab, a significant portion of funds is predominantly allocated and expended in and around Lahore, or along the Grand Trunk Road corridor stretching between Rawalpindi and Lahore. Southern Punjab does not get the same attention, nor do the border areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. More provinces means more funds will be allocated to the areas which will leads to progress and prosperity of the provinces


1. Tabeling of Resolution

In May 2012, the National Assembly approved a resolution for the establishment of a Janoobi (South) Punjab province. Following this, in August 2012, a parliamentary commission was formed to address this issue. The resolution directed the Punjab Assembly to introduce a bill to amend the Constitution accordingly.

2. National Assembly divided

  • It takes place on April, 2019
  • On Tuesday, the National Assembly found itself divided as a constitution amendment bill proposing the creation of South Punjab and Bahawalpur provinces was introduced.
  • As per the bill, the proposed Bahawalpur province will encompass the existing administrative Bahawalpur division, while the South Punjab province will be comprised of the current divisions of Dera Ghazi Khan and Multan.
  • The bill seeks amendment to Article 1 of the Constitution, suggesting to add the names of "Janoobi (south) Punjab" and “Bahawalpur" provinces to the existing Baluchistan, Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Sindh.

Controversies Regarding New Provinces in Punjab

The commission deliberated on the possibility of a Bahawalpur province but highlighted that Bahawalpur had never held provincial status. Granting Bahawalpur provincial status might trigger similar demands from other former princely states like Khairpur, Kalat, Swat, and others. To address these concerns, the commission suggested naming the potential new province as Bahawalpur-Janoobi Punjab. Meanwhile, a lawmaker raised the point that historically, D.G. Khan had been part of Baluchistan and advocated for its status to be reinstated accordingly.

Options Under Consideration

 The commission considered three models. 

Option one included D.G. Khan, Multan and Bahawalpur (1 districts). 

Option two had D.G. Khan. Multan and Bahawalpur divisions, and Mianwali and Bhakkar districts. 

Option three proposed Bahawalpur as a separate province. 

Bahawalpur constitutes 22% of the population and 10% of Punjab's area. Due to factors such as geographical contiguity, administrative convenience, economic potential, and social homogeneity, the commission recommended option two as the most viable choice.

Impact of New Provinces on the Constitutional Dynamics

The formation of new provinces will have far-reaching implications on various governmental bodies and agreements, including the composition of the Senate, the Council of Common Interests, the National Finance Commission, the Election Commission of Pakistan, the National Economic Council, as well as the water accord of 1991.

It would necessitate amendments to Articles 1, 51, 59, 106(1), 175A, and Article 218 of the Constitution.

An Alternative Proposal

To prevent the division of provinces along linguistic and ethnic lines, a proposal suggests dividing Punjab into Ravi, Cholistan, Gandhara, and Panjnad provinces, while the remaining three provinces could each be divided into three provinces. The creation of new provinces entails securing a two-thirds majority in the legislative assemblies, delineating boundaries, and reaching a consensus on the NFC award, among other steps. However, before embarking on such an endeavor, the potential consequences should be thoroughly assessed by a parliamentary committee.

Alternative options for addressing regional grievances include the establishment of provincial senates, strengthening local governance structures, and implementing affirmative action programs. However, the crucial aspect of successfully restructuring Pakistan's geography lies in engaging in a transparent dialogue founded on objective criteria.

In contrast to creating new provinces, an alternative approach is to expand existing administrative structures. This entails bolstering local governments with increased authority and establishing permanent bureaucratic frameworks, complemented by regular political elections at the district level.

However, the political elite tends to oppose this idea as it diminishes and undermines the power and influence of provincial governments.


  • The issue of creating new provinces in Pakistan was influenced by three contradictory factors: religion, nationalism, and centralization. The argument that the identity of Pakistan rested with Islam as a major unifying force was exploited by the bureaucratic-military establishment which wanted to suppress nationalistic forces and establish a unitary instead of federal state.
  • Some argued that legitimizing ethnic and linguistic identities through the creation of new provincial units could jeopardize the existence of Pakistan itself.
  • The feudal-religious-bureaucratic-military nexus led to the creation of One Unit with the dissolution of the provinces in 1955 in West Pakistan as a counter weight to East Pakistan which had the demographic edge.
  • Although the provinces of Baluchistan, North-West Frontier Province, Punjab, and Sindh were restored according to the legal framework order proclaimed in 1970, there have been no subsequent changes to the federal map of Pakistan has taken place.

Three major demands for the creation of new provinces centre on Seraiki, Bahawalpur and Hazara provinces. But in all three cases, there's a likelihood of stakeholders, whether from the ethnic majority or minority, not accepting the borders on historical, linguistic, economic, political, and ethnic grounds. This increases the possibility of conflict.




In three-tiered federations, federal setups deal with limited issues like currency, defense, trade, foreign affairs, internal coordination etc. Provinces develop the main domestic policies on health, education, local safety and other basic needs and ensure inter-district coordination while districts deliver public services.

Importance of Provinces

Provinces, being the primary units responsible for directly ensuring people's welfare, are endowed with broad legislative, administrative, and fiscal powers. Being closer to the people than federal rulers, they are more accountable. But dividing states into provinces helps only if the latter have adequate capacity and money. Smaller provinces increase accountability, but may not ensure adequate capacity and financial sources if those are not spread evenly.

Problems with Creating Provinces on Administrative Grounds

  • Even in homogenous states, provinces can't be made just by placing a grid on the map. Their size must optimize the trade-off between accountability and capacity-finance.
  • Diverse states like Pakistan have historical ethnic regions too. These ethnic groups often harbor strong identity aspirations and historical grievances, providing justification for considering ethnic regions as potential provinces. Critics argue that the establishment of ethnic provinces can exacerbate ethnic tensions and fuel incessant demands for further subdivision.
  • But Pakistani and South Asian experiences show that such provinces reduce conflicts. Given that our existing provinces are primarily organized along ethnic lines, creating new ones based solely on administrative criteria could introduce inconsistency into the system.

Large Ethnicities

I Finally, while Pakistan is said to have some three dozen ethnicities, only four are large enough to demand new provinces, one in each province: Seraiki, Hindko, Mohajir (more a political rather than ethnic identity) and Baluchistan's Pakhtoons.

High Cost of Creating Provinces on Administrative Grounds

Contrast, the administrative idea is to convert existing divisions into provinces to reduce ethnic fissures. This would result in the creation of 26 provinces, incurring significant expenses. A false charge against the 18th Amendment is that the four provinces lack capacity. With numerous provinces, it's highly likely that many would struggle with limited capacity and finances, ultimately relying heavily on the federal government for support.

Issues with Policy Formulation when Provinces are Created on Administrative Grounds

Policy formulation will be done either federally, causing over-centralization, or by the provinces separately, causing policy confusion across nearby areas. Ignoring ethnic aspirations for administrative efficiency will undermine it too in the long-term as suppressing the former leads to conflict.

All new provinces must be created around ethnic aspirations but not all aspirations deserve a province.

An ethnic group's numerical and area size, length of presence in the area and economic disparity in the province must be seen too. Indeed, the ramifications of establishing a new province on economic, political, demographic, and territorial equality among all provinces must be carefully considered.

Review of District Progress Rankings

A review of our district progress rankings shows that Mohajirs, Hindko and Baluchistan's Pakhtoons are actually richer than their respective majorities. The Hindko and Pakhtoon are also small in number and area-wise. The Mohajirs and many other permanent residents of Karachi are relatively recent arrivals. Establishing a province with a non-capital city is rare on a global scale and would deviate from the urban-rural composition of other provinces.

The Case of Saraiki Province

  • The Seraiki are perhaps the only group with high scores on all the criteria.
  • A Seraiki province will enhance population and political balance across all provinces, and reduce Punjab's growing dominance.
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