Culture of federalism stressed to resolve conflicts
A seminar titled ‘Federalism and Provincial Autonomy’ was held here at a hotel in Lahore in which subjects like relationship between different tires of government, regional inequality within provinces and provincial autonomy in post 18th amendment scenario were discussed.
Seminar was organized by Centre for Peace and Development Initiative. MNA Naseer Bhutta chaired the session.
Mr. Salim Iqbal, Coordinator of Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) shed light on the importance of eighteenth amendment and federal structures as tools for outstanding resolution of conflicts amongst different tiers of government.
Mr. Zubair Faisal Abbasi shared his research on ‘federalism and provincial autonomy’ in which he argued that Pakistan needs to go beyond majoritarian democracy and try to bring in consociational regimes so that the voices of social groups which cannot be represented are also heard. He traced the history of Pakistan in which the Central government tried to create strong centre and this tendency created rifts and conflicts amongst the provincial and federal tiers of the government. ‘However, the democratic regimes have tried to create consensus-based decision-making which is specially manifested in recent NFC award and 18th amendment’, he argued. He stressed the need to building capacity of provinces in addressing regional inequalities within provinces after having more development funds. While talking on the issue of ‘holding together’ feature of federalism, he said that the need to lay stress in functionality of institutional arrangements rather than only forms.
Mr. I. A. Rehman stressed the need of good quality research inputs in policy making which can address problems of federation and socio-economic development. He said that until Pakistan does not develop a ‘culture of federalism’, the state will not be able to resolve the conflicts through provincial autonomy. He argued that the real democratic federalism lies in the devolution of administrative and financial responsibility to the grass-roots levels of local government. In addition, he said that the devolved provincial departments need capacity building while there must be some centre for research on federalism so that the real issue connected with conflicts amongst different tiers of government are analyzed and addressed with evidence-based research and informed dialogue amongst stakeholders.
Mr. Naseer Bhutta said that we should try to act as Pakistanis because these are us the people who are custodians of government and federal structures. In addition, he argued that provinces now need to show responsibility in the management of development and planning so that real problems of poverty and inequality are addressed. He said that the devolution of financial authority also brings the issue of financial responsibility. This is a point where we need to be careful in capability and capacity assessment of provincial governments.
Talking on the role of the Pakistan Peoples Party in promoting federalism, Mr. Chaudhary Manzoor argued that it was PPP which addressed the question of federalism through the constitution of 1973 and accepted the regional and provincial identities consistent with national identities. While responding to questions on Balochistan, he said that the issue is federal but at the same time it has become complex owing to interest of regional and international powers. However, he was of the opinion that the processes of dialogue and transfer of resources under ‘Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan’ initiative some key problems can be resolved. He said that a successful federation is the one which can help contain conflicts within institutional frameworks and this is what PPPP government is trying to do.
The participants took part in the interactive session and consensus was on the importance of both democracy and federalism as important factors if Pakistan wants to become a successful nation in the world.