National integration, by definition, means holding the citizens of a country, no matter, belonging to different caste, religion or ethnicity, with a single rope, giving them a common identity. For the citizens of Pakistan, the common identity is Pakistani. Ensuring and promotion of national integration is very crucial for the strength and unity of a country.
For a country like Pakistan where people with diverse culture, language and ethnicity live together, national integration plays a pivotal role in cementing the citizens together and preventing them from splitting up. However, Pakistan has been facing the crisis of national integration since its inception. Abdul Ghaffar Khan of erstwhile NWFP did not accept the creation of Pakistan and demanded the separate state called Pakhtunistan comprising of some parts of Afghanistan, FATA and NWFP. Although, Sindh Assembly was the first British Indian legislature to pass the resolution in favor of Pakistan, yet, by the passage of time, the same Sindhi leader, who early favored joining Pakistan, raised a separatist slogan of Sindhu Desh to demand a separate country. Many leaders of Baluchistan also initiated separatist movements.
The main force that is trying to ensure national integration in Pakistan is the military. The military, as an institution, is trying to create national integration by secretly getting rid of the dissents and celebrating national independence and defense day. However, It is not aware of the fact that National integration is not created, but it is achieved through social, economic and political justice and equality. Unless, Pakistan improves its governance, ensure equity in power and resources sharing among different sub-national groups, achieving national integration will remain a distant dream. The separation of East Pakistan was also based on this fact as Bengali were denied of their due share in the government and finance.
At an early stage of independence of Pakistan, its rulers failed to bring national integrity because of many factors. First, the leaders, including the founder, made no preparation for how to deal with the issue. The creation of Pakistan was sudden and unexpected. The members of Muslim League put the demand of separation in 1940 for bargaining purpose to get a political leverage for Muslim, but, within a short period of seven years, they got a whole country. They could not get a time to make arrangements to run a new state. Khuwaja Nizamuddin, who became second Prime Minister of Pakistan told a British governor a few months before the independence, “he did not know what Pakistan means and that nobody in the Muslim League knew”. The demand for the separate country was actually put to pressurize the Congress to agree on the constitution providing adequate share to the Muslim in Indian government. It was not meant to get a separate country. Therefore, Muslim did not prepare themself to deal with the complex issues.
Second, the sudden death of Muhammad Ali Jinnah created a leadership crisis. He was the only leader at the time who had capacity to cope with the complex issues. Third, the minority Muslim from India captured the rein of government in Pakistan. The time was sensitive as Indian leaders were trying their best to undo Pakistan and stopped its third financial installment to surge its economic woes. It was also facing challenges from Afghanistan as Afghan’s leader refused to accept the Durand line as a legitimize boundary line between Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, these minority leaders, to ensure power in their hands, keep leaders from other provinces at bay and did not give them adequate share in the government. They also adopted delay tactics to avoid General Elections and bring pure democracy because the elections would have transferred their power to the local people who were in majority.
Finally, the continuous direct military intervention in the governments increased the feeling of bitterness and hate among the residents of other provinces towards Punjab because the military was composed of mostly officers and soldiers from Punjab. Besides, it exploited the resources of other provinces, in particular, erstwhile East Pakistan, without ensuring social, economic and political justice.
At present, the democratic government along with the military should try not to create, but achieve national integration by ensuring social, political and economic justice. They must take the following measures to unite the residents of all the provinces under a single identity i.e. Pakistani.
Ensuring Parliamentary Democracy:
A renowned columnist, Bakhtawar Bilal Sufi, writes in his article “Why Presidential?” that Pakistan is a divided country. People from diverse backgrounds and different sub-national identities live here. Politics in the country is also divided along ethno-linguistic lines. It is perceived that the torch-bearers of the Sindhis is the PPP, for the Pakhtuns it is the ANP, for Punjab the PML-N and for Mohajirs the MQM. There is no single national party. Under these conditions, the only system that will allow all these sub-national groups to have say in the political process is a parliamentary form of government. Even presidential democracy will fail to merge people under a single identity because it will enable only one group to enjoy the maximum power. Thus, Parliamentary democracy is the best form of government for a country like Pakistan to ensure the residents, belonging to diverse groups, are kept united under a single flag.
Apart from parliamentary democracy, people living in different provinces, forming a particular identity should be given an authority to frame laws independently within their own realm and implement them. For instance, people living in Sindh, forming an identity of Sindhi, must be allowed to rule their province by enhancing the power of Sindh Assembly by shifting as many federal ministries as possible to the Sindh government. It can be achieved by giving full autonomous status to the provinces. The 18th amendment was a good step in a right direction in this regard. It devolved several federal ministries and functions including education, health, women development, tourism, environment, etc. to the provinces. Now these diverse groups are happy because the amendment empower them to rule their provinces without getting a feeling of being ignored in politics.
Timely distribution of finances to the provinces by the federal government under NFC award:
The federal government, each year, distributes finance to the provinces under National Finance Commission (NFC) award. The 7th NFC award was agreed on 2010 for the period of 5 years. It expired in 2015, but has been extended every year since no progress has so far been made on a new award. According to the 7th NFC award, the provinces get 57.5 per cent of the federal divisible pool. The provincial share is distributed on the basis of multiple criteria with population having 82pc weight, poverty and backwardness 10.3pc, inverse population density or area 2.7pc and revenue collection and generation 5pc. Previously, it was distributed solely on the basis of population. After the introduction of 18th amendment, provinces require full and timely payment by the federal government to function smoothly as more responsibilities and ministries are transferred from the Federal to the provincial governments under the said amendment. Any delay or deduction in a payment may increase gulf between the particular sub-national groups towards the people holding the rein of the federal government. Hence, the timely and full payment of finance to the provinces under the NFC award play a very important role in uniting the people of diverse backgrounds under a single identity.
Balance development in the provinces by equitable distribution of CPEC projects:
Balance development refers to the uniform distribution of projects in all the provinces so that the residents do not fell alienated. It might be equal or in equal distribution based on the capacity of the region. For instances, if the federal government is planning to construct 50 universities in Sindh province, it may not build the same number in Baluchistan because of population difference, but, it must be bound to invest in other projects to create a balance. Pakistan has been a victim of imbalance development with the provinces like Baluchistan and KPK had long been ignored because PMN-N and PPP, being two major parties, focus on Punjab and Sindh respectively. On the other hand, the military government often transfers the development budget to its own institution. For instances, Musharraf received around $11.8 billion foreign aid from 2001 to 2007. He spent 80 per cent of this aid to upgrade the military.
At present, the federal government must focus to share the heavy investment under CPEC to the provinces in equitable manner to achieve national integration. Already when Nawaz Sharif tried to change the Western route of CPEC that passes through KPK and Baluchistan, it raised storm in KPK and people gathered to protest against his decision. Parallel development projects under CPEC must be initiated in all the provinces. If more projects are assigned to a particular province, it will raise a feeling of hatred and acrimony among the people towards the residence of that province.
Due share to the provinces from their natural resources:
The main source of rise of separatist movements in Baluchistan is its natural resources. It contains, apart from natural gas, a huge reservoir of copper and gold in Reko Diq town of Chaghai District. The people of Baluchistan want an adequate share in their natural resources because they fear that the foreigners would otherwise be benefitted. Under these circumstances, the central government must make an ordinance to provide due share to the regional people from their resources. The model like “Alaska Permanent Fund” should be introduced. The USA formed this fund to invest on the local people of Alaska from where oil and gas was exploited. Around 10 per cent of the money obtained from exploiting of the resources is spent on the welfare of the local people by providing them housing and fixed income. It will ensure to keep Baloch to be united under a single flag.
Balancing the composition of Pakistan Army:
Pakistan army is among the most powerful institution of Pakistan. For the citizens, it is a prestige to become a part of this institution. However, the officials from Punjab have long dominated the army creating a feeling of alienation by the residents of other provinces that they are not trusted for the sensitive job. Although the domination has been declined now and more soldiers are recruited from other provinces as well, yet, the citizens of Punjab still dominate the army at an officer level. According to Shuja Nawaz, around 67 per cent officers in Pakistan army are from Punjab. More alarmingly, the officers from the other provinces are not trusted with the sensitive posts. Besides, the hereditary appointments are also been witnessed. Thus, the ratio of officers from other provinces must be increased in accordance to the population to create a sense of prestige among the people of all provinces. It will help bringing national integration.
Thus, Pakistan has been facing the crisis of national integration since its creation. However, the issue can be resolved if measures like ensuring parliamentary democracy and provincial autonomy, providing timely payment of financial share to the provinces from the Federal government, guaranteeing equitable distributions of development projects in the provinces under the balance development strategy, assuring due share to the provinces from their natural resources and reforming the composition of Pakistan army to include the residents from all the provinces on the basis of population, are taken timely. The issue is very serious at the present stage. Hence, these measures should be carried out on immediate basis without any delay.