Academic journal article Pakistan Historical Society. Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society

Centre-Provinces Relations under the Constitution of 1973: The Role of Punjab during Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Era

Academic journal article Pakistan Historical Society. Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society

Centre-Provinces Relations under the Constitution of 1973: The Role of Punjab during Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Era

Article excerpt


The centre-provinces relations form an intricate sort of political and administrative debate for constitutionalists and federalists all around the world and so also in Pakistan. Raza Rabbani1 a seasoned politician relates the internal fabric of this problem with a messy tug of war for legitimate power between the Centre and provinces. Katharine Adeney,2 Claude Rakisits,3 Mehrunnisa Ali,4 Muntazzra Nazir5 and Syed Jaffer Ahmad6 have pointed this problem to the centralized character of Pakistani Federation. Adeney concludes that though major changes have been made to balance the centre-provinces relations in the constitution of 1973 through the 18th amendment, it has not yet gone far enough. Rather it has increased the intensity of ethnicization in Pakistan.7 In the prevailing debate, quantum of power-sharing between the Centre and provinces is the main issue which affects the inter-governmental relations in the federation of Pakistan. To comprehend the present day debate on centreprovinces relations, one has to understand the structure and functioning of the federation of Pakistan under the constitution of 1973.

The theoretical framework of this paper is based on the concept of federalism, conceived in the constitution of 1973. Federalism is a system of government in which powers of governance are divided between the central government and provincial governments. It is considered to be suitable for heterogeneous political societies to develop cooperation and coordination in social, economic, political and administrative sphere. So it provides a delicate balance between the conflicting demands between a union and its units.8 According to the Encyclopedia of Britannica: "federalism is the best suited constitutional model; in managing the relations between a central government and its federating units". K.C. Wheare held that the method of power-sharing is central in every federation. In this way 'the general and regional governments are 'each' within a sphere, coordinate and independent'. So federalism is considered as a 'technique for political integration'.9 All countries that are working under federal systems have shaped their political system according to their conditions and mutual agreements.

Pakistan has experienced federal system under the three constitutions of Pakistan, before the Constitution of 1973. First, under the Government of India Act 1935 that served as the Interim Constitution of Pakistan for nine years; second under the Constitution of 1956 and third under the Constitution of 1962. The Centralized federal structure has always been kept intact under these constitutions for maintaining and consolidating national unity. However, the functioning of prescribed federal structure under these constitutions remained a source of contention between the Centre and provinces. In this context, political and geographical changes after the separation of East Pakistan, required reconsidering the federal structure in the constitution of 1973 for a balanced relationship between the Centre and provinces.

This paper throws light on the fact that though the Constitution of 1973, provided structural arrangement for centre-provinces relations in Pakistan but could not change the centralized nature of power-mechanism. The Centre maintained its ascendency in state structure through authoritarian and non-participatory political and administrative apparatus. The functioning of the federal system during Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto period reflects the hegemonic role of the Centre through party politics, which affected the Centre-p rovinces relations.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto assumed the office of President and Chief Martial Law Administrator of Pakistan on 20 December 1971. His Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) had a majority in the National Assembly of Pakistan, having maximum representation from the Punjab and Sindh. However, PPP could not win the electoral support from NWFP (present Khyber Pukhtünkhwa) and Balochistan. …

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