The Sindh Assembly recently rejected the proposal to transfer the right to change or create a new province in Pakistan from the provincial assembly to the federal government. Currently, according to Article 239 (4) of the constitution of Pakistan, only the provincial assemblies through a two thirds majority have the power to create any new provinces. The bill proposed by the Muttahida Quomi Movement (MQM) would amend the constitution to remove this article and give the power directly to the president. Although some have argued that this form of decentralization is not beneficial to the greater interest of Pakistan, it is indisputable that without it we are denying justice to millions of people in the country.
The Hazara community in Pakistan is comprised of about 900,000 people and is just one of the groups of people that continue to be severely persecuted. This community has faced extreme discrimination and according to Abdul Qayum Changezi, head of the Hazara Jarga, “over 600 Hazaras have been killed since 2000.” Hazaras face difficulty in finding jobs and access to education. Many are so fed up, they choose to leave the country all together, even if it means illegally. Last year 55 people between the ages of 19 and 22 drowned when their boat sank off the shore of Indonesia while attempting to flee to Australia. Besides facing persecution because of their ethnic background, the Hazara community is also targeted because of their religious affiliation. The majority of Hazaras belong to the Shia community and in the sectarian killings that have taken place in Balochistan over the past few years; many of the Shias killed were Hazaras.
The Hazara movement is not new in Pakistan; however, this is the first time that there are calls for a separate Hazara province. While most of the major political parties in Pakistan support the establishment of a Hazara province, the PML-N and ANP do not because politically they stand to lose the most. This is an obvious display of the lack of concern from these so-called representatives of the people towards the real issues faced by their constituents. The movement for a separate province became more serious when MQM presented the bill to remove article 239 from the constitution. Since the Punjab Assembly, dominated by PML-N, will never allow for another province to be carved out of Punjab, this was the only path left to follow.
The leader of the Hazara Province Movement Committee (HPMC) Baba Haider Zaman thanked MQM for bringing up this issue in parliament. The plight of the Hazara community is no less than that of Palestinians fighting for their rights in Israel. And yet we see much more fervent activism from Pakistanis towards the cause of Palestinian statehood than towards endowing their own people with the rights they are entitled to.
What many people fail to realize is that creation of more provinces is a good thing. It leads to decentralization and more responsible governance. As Shahab Usto, writes for Dawn.com, in India “Articles 2, 3, & 4 allow parliament to create new states by simple legislation. No consent of the affected provinces is required. Therefore, a number of new states have been created since 1957 and the process is on.” The United States of America has about double the population of Pakistan and has 50 states while Pakistan has only four provinces. While division on the basis of ethnicity is not the goal here, it must be understood that Pakistan is still a country where too often allegiances are formed on the basis of ethnicity and those in power work only for people belonging to their own community.
Yes this sounds archaic, but it is a fact. Until these changes, we must empower people from every community so that nobody is left behind. We must be proud of the diversity that exists within our country and embrace each other as equals. The creation of a new Hazara province will give a voice to this community and provide much needed resources that will help them prosper.