Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

PAC Summit Addresses Essential Issues

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

PAC Summit Addresses Essential Issues

Article excerpt

The Pakistani American Congress (PAC) held its 13th annual Pakistani American Friendship Summit June 23 to 25. The opening day panel discussions, held at the Holiday Inn on Capitol Hill, covered a range of topics and brought in speakers from both the United States and Pakistan, including several Pakistani senators. The summit's aim was to foster mutual understanding between Pakistani-Americans and U.S. officials in order to positively impact Pakistan's ties with the United States.

The first panel discussed the issue of provincial autonomy in Pakistan, a prevalent topic in the country's parliament. Senator Mohammad Ishaq Dar gave a detailed account of the items on the concurrent list that may be placed under provincial authority. The concurrent list, created under the 1973 consitution, was intended to transfer the power over these areas to the provinces in 10 years. The transfer of power never occurred, however, and as a result tensions between provinces have errupted, along with charges of unequal treatment.

Dar expressed the parliament's general view that the provinces should have more autonomy and that the Council for Common Interest, which hasn't actually met since it was constituted in 1988, should be used to faciliate "interprovincial harmony."

Senator S.M. Zafar further illuminated the debate regarding whether strengthening the provinces would weaken the federal government. The centrality of the government was unconstitutional and led to the underrepresentation of the provinces, he argued, making them feel "neglected and disinterested." He cited the tensions in the underdeveloped Balochistan province, as compared to the wealthy Punjab province, to illustrate how the "grievance of not receiving political leverage" can harm the nation.

Now that "provinces are more mature," Zafar continued, they should be entrusted with more autonomy. …

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