Why a country of 200 million needs more provinces?

The Professor of Marketing & International Business at Chicago State University addresses the question why Pakistan needs more provinces, and how this may help to improve governance and create economic opportunities for the diverse people of Pakistan.


“Leadership is about managing change—whether you’re leading a company or leading a country. Change things for betterment and people get creative.”

Change refers to the introduction of something new, which can fall anywhere along the continuum from continuous (i.e., incremental improvement) to discontinuous change (e.g., paradigm-breaking). Not all change is creative. You can change a flat tire, change your mind, change your clothes, and change the job, but these are not creative acts.

When we refer to change within our definition of creativity, we refer to situations in which an explicit attempt is being made to bring an idea into being that has some degree of novelty—a creative change. For the betterment of people of Pakistan, we have to change and become creative.

What has happened and is happening in Pakistan has no end. It’s endless chaos, because real solutions have never been addressed by any set of decision-makers: from politicians to policymakers. We are moving in vicious circles for the last 70 years in the hope that things will change or get better – by themselves.

But without addressing the reality on ground, things will not get better. Under the current highly centralized system, no political party is able to deliver, even, the basic human necessities to the people of Pakistan.

The world has transformed itself in the last 30 years, but within Pakistan’s inner universe – of political democracy, economics, law and education – this has not been understood or absorbed. Today, Pakistan’s political system is not only highly centralized but is controlled by few people, who – by virtue of their stranglehold on media – present themselves as the heroes of democracy.

Because of the manufacturing defects of the 19th-century models of Westminster democracy – uncritically adopted by Pakistani political and legal elite – no leader will be able to deliver or govern; no matter how honest or sincere he may be. Seventy years experience of governance and management also raises big question marks on the performance and learning ability of the Pakistani bureaucracy.

 Pakistan’s political system is not only highly centralized but is controlled by few people, who – by virtue of their stranglehold on media – present themselves as the heroes of democracy.

The outcome of gross mismanagement- from federal to tehsil level – is that almost 95% of the population is deprived of “Basic Human Needs.” Governments, worldwide, are supposed to provide basic human needs to their citizens, which are clean drinking water, food, shelter, security, education, healthcare, and opportunity to earn a respectable living.

While in return people pay taxes at three basic levels, which exist in many democracies: city, state and federal. The Pakistani power elite could not deliver the bare minimums, the basics, for its people even in the beginning of 21st century; while the pockets of the same elite have become ever greater leading to a grotesque disparity.

Professionally successful Pakistanis – like myself – living across North America and Europe are shocked when they hear of the assets in foreign countries held by politically connected Pakistanis. In most instances, Pakistani politicians and their families have nothing to show in terms of professional or business success to account for the assets they have accumulated.

One can hope that the Supreme Court of Pakistan will take note of those people –politicians and civil servants – who blocked the implementation of decentralized governance in the last ten years which could provide basic level necessities to every household, including the availability of clean water – the core element for a healthy life and industrial development.

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China & Turkey: Successful Models of ‘Governance Change’

In recent history, China, Turkey, Eastern Europe, and South America offer best examples of adapting to change, which has brought prosperity to people while focusing on basic human needs. If dictatorial China can be sensitive to human needs of its people, then why democratic Pakistan can not realize the plight of its populations and follow successful models of governance and financial decentralization.

The table overleaf shows how disconnected today’s Pakistan is from the practicality of the world governance model – still living in 1850’s British India. A mere glance at this table helps to answer why Pakistan needs more provinces. Centralization of power has made Pakistan very disconnected, rigid and thus unable to accept change.

We need to think of 35+ administrative units headed by elected governors; a model in which each tehsil mayor selects his financial and administrative staff locally. There are no Chief Ministers and state ministers in the contemporary world (barring the exception of India). Pakistan’s existing divisions and 5 administrative units can be converted into 35+ provinces.

Every district in Pakistan has highly qualified professionals who can play a vital role in managing local administration and economy. Benefits of having minimum 35+ provinces for the people of Pakistan can be understood in terms of unleashing administrative autonomy and creative potential.

Based on my travel, lectures, research and wide interactions with public administrators across four continents, I can assert with reasonable degree of confidence that Pakistan’s young professionals in each district have much better talent and potential, which is neither utilized nor harnessed by Pakistani policymakers and power elites operating within a very centralized system. Pakistan’s GDP can easily be equal to that of Brazil.

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Chinese Paradigm on Decentralization

China, in 1978, created approximately 47,000 municipal governments in addition to more than a million village constituencies. Communist rulers- apparently known for dictatorial control – decentralized provinces and cities by giving them 100% authority on basic human needs, education, local infrastructure, industrialization, taxation, and many other public policy issues.

Since then, hundreds of new metro cities have emerged across China. In 2016, I was traveling in North-East China with the USDA delegation and while at dinner, at the Consulate General residence, I enquired about the experience of China with city governments. US Consul General, with a deep eye on local systems, informed me that: “some governments are so independent that they do not even look at Beijing anymore”.

Pakistan is a democracy on the face of it, but more authoritarian than China in substance; only five people (One PM and 4 CMs) control the whole revenue and expenditure systems of the country.

This decentralization model of China, came originally from the USA and the EU – though contacts and exchanges between China and the west, were then limited at best. Pakistanis who rely exclusively upon American textbooks and research in their studies of medicine, engineering, finance, IT, media and other social sciences could have learnt a lot from the plurality of American political model.

The concept of the Senate was taken from the USA and stitched to the UK Parliamentary concept. But this raises the fundamental question: Why Pakistani legal, constitutional, ad-budministrative minds have not debated to changed the 1850’s governance model imposed by British colonialists? Since then, even the UK, itself, has adopted strong county and city governments.


Each Province Must Collect Its Own Tax

Decentralization of power will create tax authorities at multiple levels: tehsil or city or district, province and federal. Provincial tax collection will be collected for education, local roads, infrastructure, water issues, and most importantly, for the small industrial local development back-up fund, to offer sovereign guarantees for financing.

City governments, like all over China and the west, can collect their own taxes. Federal taxes will then be used specifically for defense, the Foreign Ministry, the creation of security institutions to back up the city and state governments and other federal institutions. Financial responsibility is a core component of decentralization.

If local governments and private organizations are to carry out decentralized functions effectively, they must have an adequate level of revenues –either raised locally or transferred from the central government, as well as the authority to make decisions about expenditures.

Fiscal decentralization can take many forms, including: a) self-financing or cost recovery through user charges, b) co-financing or co-production arrangements through which the users participate in providing services and infrastructure through monetary or labor contributions; c) expansion of local revenues through property or sales taxes, or indirect charges; d) inter-governmental transfers that shift general revenues from taxes collected by the central government to local governments for general or specific uses; and e) authorization of municipal borrowing and the mobilization of either national or local government resources through loan guarantees.

In many developing countries, local governments or administrative units possess the legal authority to impose taxes, but the tax base in Pakistan is weak and depends mostly on the central government, which has not changed its practices of tax collection. Decentralization will develop the economy faster and provide basic human needs to the people long deprived of them.

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Focus on Water, Education & Economic Development by Each Province

Each elected governor will select its own team to develop its own province. Each administrative division (future province) in Pakistan has educated professionals, educators, and practitioners who will be great assets in industrial and economic development.

Universities world over – like Chicago State University can offer special training and development programs in the area of Administration and Financial management for elected governors and their staff. These programs have been successful throughout the world – including China.

Model for Growth and Development at Provincial Level: Training and Development for Administration-Adult Skill Development Courses for Grass-Root Level Development Overseas Pakistanis can invest in their respective provinces, while international institutions may provide up to 80% financing, if respective provincial governments provide sovereign guarantees. This will be an excellent model for local grass root level development as financial institutions will filter genuine businesses.

Pakistan of 200 millions

City and Community Water Development Model with Provincial Help

Water containment and management is primarily a local issue worldwide. In Pakistan, it is a provincial issue and the way the Punjab and Sindh governments handle it, it leads to waste of large sums of money due to its highly centralized approach. Do we have anyone to punish the ‘water tank mafia’, who exploits the poor and the disadvantaged?

The centralized approach used, in Pakistan, has deprived people of the basic gift of mother nature. Who will ask democratic governments of the past ten years to abandon this approach and give people the right to shape city governments and make a change? Will Article 6, of Pakistan’s constitution, ever be applied to these people?

China can be used as an example to compare their democratic and dictatorship management at equal levels to our centralized model. Currently, I live in a small town, in Illinois, US, with a population of just 13,000; town has $33 million in budgetary surplus. We get water round the clock, which we can drink directly from the faucet. We pay taxes to the city & county, the state and the federal governments and in return, get 200% benefits.

Centralized management of provincial and federal governments in Pakistan has created a water crisis in addition to many others – and this is growing. China was able to feed its population of 1.3 billion plus with the creation of 87,000 dams. This is perhaps the best example of decentralization.

Decentralization of power will create tax authorities at multiple levels: tehsil or city or district, province and federal. Provincial tax collection will be collected for education, local roads, infrastructure, water issues, and most importantly, for the small industrial local development back-up fund, to offer sovereign guarantees for financing.

Learning from Chinese experience and elsewhere, 35+ provinces in Pakistan will create more metro areas and develop the economy, which will support an increased job base for young graduates and labour force. The growth of small industries around “basic human needs technologies’, small-scale production, processing and packaging units with local ownership of entrepreneurs and small businesses will take development to the grassroots level.

Moreover, by creating linkages between local engineering, medical, business and agricultural colleges and universities, the economy will grow faster. In a country like Pakistan with 200 million-plus population, stimulation of the basic needs industries such as water, beverages, cooking & commercial oils, dairy, fruits and vegetable processing, meat processing, pharmaceuticals, and personal care, is necessary anyway.

100% of the world population requires that and this should be Pakistan’s core developmental model. Textile could be an added benefit, but basic human needs products are not only for 100% local use but these could be exported by each province depending on its strategy.

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Low-Cost Developmental Model: Made from Cement & Fiber Glass

With a broad development overview of a country like Pakistan, one can realize that projects designed solely for political gains like Rs. 50 billions spent on one bus project benefitting 50,000+ people with prolonged subsidy and continuous loss model, (Rawalpindi-Islamabad Metro) could have instead created minimum of 20,000 water units throughout Pakistan, and benefited a significant amount of the population.

Only decentralized governments can provide these kinds of public-private water projects a chance to give clean water to local people and use for their industry.

Security, Ethnic and Religious Issues will be addressed by having 35+ Provinces

Security, ethnic, and religious issues can be addressed more meaningfully because of political participation at grass root level and security will automatically become a local responsibility. This will bring stability in each town, while locals will be responsible for security and police.

Due to NADRA’s efficient tracking system (which is a great Pakistani achievement), each household can be scanned, while federal agencies can provide back up support in volatile areas. All kinds of terror activities will be stopped at border towns because of decentralization. This will be a great advantage as the Inspector General (IGP) based in Lahore, cannot manage security in D.G. Khan. It’s unnatural and impossible.

Law of nature and history both dictate that some areas will be rich, while others remain poor. The USA and China are comprised of many different rich and poor regions, but the education system and business opportunities are the same. There are many more tax and financial incentives to set up businesses in poor states than in rich states.

Mercedes- Benz was persuaded to establish manufacturing in Alabama and not in California. Turkey and Algeria faced a similar situation as Pakistan in terms of the ethnic and religious tensions but came out successful because, Turkey, with the population of around 80 million, has 81 provinces, and Algeria, with 34 million, has 48 provinces.

UAE, with the local population of just 4 million, has 7 emirates. Taking this model into consideration, Ajman – with its own system – will never claim independence just because Dubai is rich. Provincial exploitation exists in Pakistan principally because of the large size of provinces controlled by one single executive (CM) and cronies around him.


Pakistan with 30+ provinces will manage this issue much better as these units will be on an administrative base. New leadership will develop from local power elites with a sense of participation in power, economy, and financial growth. The current system is so rotten that for the last ten years of democratic rule, since 2008, the same few family groups came to power, who had been ruling since 1980s.

And family fortunes generated through political patronage have increasingly found ways to Dubai, London and other parts of the world. USA has 50 states in the country with a population of 327 million. Mayors of small towns to large cities are not answerable to anybody but the local councils. The governor looks after the executive, legislative, and financial matters of state.

The education system is county-based (district) with standardization, and curriculum being nationally based. Furthermore, there are many examples of African countries gaining independence in 1950’s and 1960’s and changing their colonial system by decentralizing power.

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China’s Decentralization Model for Pakistani Decentralization of Power

The reason China’s model can also fit in Pakistan is due to the fact that the Chinese take good things from all over the world and adopt these to local circumstances. Pakistan is an equally talented nation and can learn from the Chinese experience. Deng Xiaoping rose to power in 1978 and instituted significant economic and political reforms.

Creation of local government was a real change which brought unprecedented economic development in modern history. In addition to centralized policies, basic human need, education, local infrastructure development, and economic development were given to Mayors. It can be said that China was adopting the American city governments’ model.

Politburo Standing Committee (PSC), is a committee consisting of the top leaders of the Communist Party of China. Historically it has been composed of five to nine members, and currently has seven members. Its official mandated purpose is to conduct policy discussions and pass decisions on major issues when the Politburo, a larger decision-making body which includes the Politburo Standing Committee, is not in session.

One can hope that Pakistani leadership that is generally warm towards China, may recognize the benefits of such a decision-making committee and adopts a similar kind of change, through effective devolution, giving people opportunity of “self-management” by creating 6000 city governments.

Results of Chinese Decentralization – Chinese have Strong Reservations about Pakistan’s Structure

China, a Communist dictatorship, has made better economic progress than many democracies. It is due to visionary leadership and decentralized political, financial, and governance models which brought progress in democracies and dictatorships. Pakistan is a democracy on the face of it, but more authoritarian than China in substance; only five people (One PM and 4 CMs) control the whole revenue and expenditure systems of the country.

And no one has been able to stop the flight of capital to Dubai, London and other places in the world while people in Pakistan are deprived of basic needs. The answer to such structural shortcomings is the creation of 35+ provinces and 6000 city governments. The commissioner’s budget will be sufficient for new governors and budgets managed by DCs and ACs will be enough for small city mayors.

There are unprecedented and unbelievable expenses on government departments and people who do not do anything for grass root level developments. Let’s start by following constitutional powers of “local governments” and the creation of 35+ provinces. As mentioned earlier, we follow many American practices in professional, medical, financial and academic services, So one wonders why we cannot learn from the plurality and the governance model of the United States. This is just a short analysis but it may kick-start a process of “THINKING & ACTING FOR CHANGE”

Dr. Zafar A. Bokhari is Professor of Marketing & International Business – Chairperson of Management, Marketing, & MIS Departments at Chicago State University, USA. Bokhari serves as Commissioner at ARDC, Illinois Supreme Court, Academic Scholar to China, and has been USDA Business & Academic Delegate to Africa, S. America, Asia, and E. Europe. His research projects involve brand development with Pepsi and water-based technologies for third world economies. Bokhari did his Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA) from UK.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space. 

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