The Department of Political Science, Jamia Millia Islamia organized a lecture on “Pakistan: An Aspiring Federation” by Veena Kukreja, professor at the Department of Political Science, University of Delhi, on 5th March 2014 in the seminar room of the department.
The lecture broadly touched upon the questions of why Pakistan, since its birth from the partition of 1947, has been unable to successfully establish a federal structure, thus being labelled a confused, defunct and failed federalism. “Contemporary Pakistan is experimenting with quasi federal democracy after a long spell of military authoritarianism. Since its birth in 1947, Pakistan has been theoretically a federal state, but politically the unitarian character of the state prevails. The principle of federalism has been swept under the carpet.” She further explained how the federal idea withered away largely because of the composition of the political elite of the country and the role played by them. “They failed to accommodate the diversity of Pakistan. They followed short-sighted and discriminatory policies. As a result, the 1956 and 1962 constitutions do not reflect much concern for federal principles. The pressures for regional autonomy and fairer share of power, however, have increased between the centre and provinces”, Prof. Kukreja explained.
She also spoke of the faulty institutional arrangements of devolution of power in Pakistan that have always favoured the dominant ethno-national group- the Punjabis. “The profile of Punjabinization of the state underscores a strong sense of distrust towards the centre as well as demands for provincial autonomy. Federalism as a symbol of shared sovereignty thus remains somewhat elusive. The process of Punjabinization has made the process of federalization a farce”, Prof Veena Kukreja stated.
Highlighting the historical 18th amendment passed in 2010 to decentralize power by transferring federal level responsibility to the provincial governments in Pakistan, Prof Kukreja said, “It is a landmark development in the context of federalism and claimed by government to lead to inclusive federalism. But little progress has been made in achieving goals. Everything depends on the efforts by the civilian government and also on military’s perception of this constitutional change”.
Responding to a question whether it was correct to label Pakistan as a failed state, Prof Veena Kukreja opined, “A failed state is one where none of the institutions work. So Pakistan is certainly not a failed state”, adding that it has suffered too many problems since its birth, including that of the 1971 bifurcation, yet it has managed to live on.