Discuss the Nature of Centre-Province Relations under the 1973 Constitution.


CSS Solved Pakistan Affairs Past Papers | Discuss the Nature of Centre-Province Relations under the 1973 Constitution.

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1- Introduction

The nature of center-province relations under the 1973 constitution of Pakistan is characterized by a balanced distribution of powers between a strong central authority and autonomous provincial governments, reflecting a vigorous commitment to federalism, regional autonomy, and collaborative governance across legislative, administrative, economic, and judicial spheres.

2- Historical background of Pakistan’s centre-province relationship under various phases

  • ✓ Under the 1956 constitution
  • ✓ Under the 1962 constitution
  • ✓ Under the 1973 constitution before the 18th amendment

3- The current nature of the federal-provincial relations after the 18th amendment to the 1973 constitution

  • Legislative Powers
    • ✓ Article 142: Enhanced provincial autonomy
    • ✓ Transfer of concurrent list subjects
    • ✓ Article 140 (A): Devolution of powers and local governments
  • Relationship
    • ✓ Articles 51 and 59: Provincial representation in the federal government
    • ✓ Article 145: Role of Governer as a federal representative
    • ✓ Article 153: The Council of Common Interests (CCI)
  • Management of Economic Resources
    • ✓ Article 118: Provincial Consolidated Fund
    • ✓ Article 160: National Finance Commission (NFC) Award
    • ✓ Article 172: Equal share in natural resources
  • Judicial Relationship
    • ✓ Article 175: Dual judicial system
    • ✓ Articles 175 (A) and 177: Collaborative appointment of judges
    • ✓ Article 184: Supremacy of the Supreme Court in resolution of disputes

4- How the federalist structure of Pakistan is impacted by the crises of provincial governments 

  • ✓ Inefficient devolution of powers to local governments
  • ✓ Inequality and regional disparities
  • ✓ Weakening governance system 

5- Critical Analysis

6- Conclusion

Answer to the Question


Centre-province relations lie at the heart of a federal governance model, balancing the equilibrium between national integrity and regional autonomy. This system entails the decentralization of powers between the central authority and its sub-units, typically provinces. In the context of Pakistan, the foundational vision has been steeped in federalism since its very inception. Nevertheless, the federal framework has faced persistent disruptions due to fluctuating governance structures. Consequently, the country has witnessed an asymmetrical imbalance in centre-province relations, leaving the provincial administrations in a subordinate capacity for most of history.  Finally, a watershed moment emerged with the enactment of the 18th amendment to the 1973 constitution, catalyzing a profound transformation in the governance landscape. Under its contours, the constitution allows exclusive jurisdiction of a strong centre while delegating autonomous powers to the provinces in the legislative, administrative, monetary, and judicial domains. Moreover, resolutory mechanisms like the Council of Common Interests (CCI) and the National Finance Commission (NFC) also facilitate constructive engagement between the units. In brief, this answer explores the contemporary nature of federal-provincial relations in Pakistan under the 1973 constitution, delving into the strategies that ensure a collaborative approach to governance.

“The unity between centre and provinces stands at the forefront of governance that shapes the lives of citizens. Empowering this unity means empowering Pakistan.”

Benazir Bhutto (former prime minister of Pakistan)

Historical Background of Pakistan’s Centre-province Relations under Various Phases  

The interplay between the federal and provincial spheres in Pakistan resembles a turbulent rollercoaster ride. Where some governments tried to reinvigorate the true essence of federalism, others undermined it for self-serving agendas. At the outset, Pakistan embraced a federalist philosophy; however, the operational dynamics remained a sorry comment, with the centre retaining significant powers, particularly under the Concurrent List of the 1956 constitution. The situation deteriorated with President Ayub Khan’s military coup, leading to the establishment of a presidential system under the 1962 constitution. Advancing to 1973, Pakistan adopted its third charter, yet political instability and chaos remained as pervasive as ever. These difficulties accentuated by General Zia’s imposition of martial law in 1977, resulting in an amplification of the central government’s dominance. For instance, the 8th Amendment proved pivotal in conferring the president with substantial powers to dissolve assembly and depose government under section 58 (2b), which remained in effect for three decades. Finally, the actual journey towards federalism commenced in the 2000s, ushering in significant policy changes. This era paved the way for crucial developments such as the 17th, 18th, 21st, and 24th amendments, reshaping the landscape of center-province relations in Pakistan for years to come.

The Current Nature of the Federal-provincial Relations under the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan

  1. Legislative Powers
  • Article 142: Enhanced Provincial Autonomy

The 1973 constitution reinforces the concept of provincial autonomy, affirming the provinces as autonomous entities and reducing the federal government’s influence over provincial affairs. As a result, the provincial assemblies procure greater control over subjects within their domain, legislating independently without federal intervention. This move towards provincial autonomy aims to foster greater self-governance and empower local decision-making.

  • Transfer of Concurrent List Subjects

Previously, legislative powers were split into the Federal Legislative List (FLL) and the Concurrent Legislative List (CLL). In the latter, both federal and provincial governments could legislate, with federal law prevailing in case of conflicts. However, following the 18th amendment, federal subjects, like defense, foreign affairs, and communications, have been limited to the FLL only, and powers have substantially transferred to provinces through the abolishment of the CLL, enhancing their legislative authority over a wider range of matters such as education, health, labor, employment, etc.

  • Article 140 (A): Devolution of Powers

Article 140 (A) facilitates a three-tiered devolution of power in Pakistan’s governance structure i.e., from the federal level to the provincial, and further from the provincial level to the local level. Under its framework, provinces are authorized to establish local governments and avail themselves of the expanded opportunities for self-governance at a grass-root level. For instance, it allows issues like waste management, infrastructure development, and revenue generation to be efficiently tackled by local authorities, benefiting the community directly. Thus, this provision encourages governance at the level closest to citizens.

  1. Administrative Relationship
  • Articles 51 and 59: Provincial Representation in the Federal Government

The foundation of Pakistan’s federal structure rests on the engagement of provinces in national affairs, particularly channelled through the National Assembly (NA) and the Senate. In the NA, the allocation of seats is proportionate to the provinces’ population size. Contrastingly, the Senate ensures parity among provinces, regardless of their demographics. To illustrate, each of the four units contributes an equal number of senators, amounting to 23 out of 100 seats, ensuring fairness and inclusivity. These dynamics cultivate an environment of consensus among various administrative blocks and establish a system of check-and-balance for power distribution.

  • Article 145: Role of Governer as a Federal Representative

In each province, a Governor is appointed by the President as his agent to serve as a representative of federal interests, particularly the ones concerning areas not falling under any province as specified by the directive. Being a state’s spokesperson, the Governor’s role includes tasks like giving assent to provincial legislation and ensuring the federal government’s active involvement in provincial matters.

  • Article 153: The Council of Common Interests (CCI)

The CCI is a constitutional body that promotes intergovernmental coordination and helps resolve disputes between the federal and provincial governments. It comprises the Prime Minister and provincial Chief Ministers, alongside others and serves as a platform for consultation and consensus on policy matters of national importance like administrative and security concerns. Some of its notable achievements are exemplified by its role in facilitating the Water Apportionment Accord (WAA) and the inter-governmental coordination during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  1. Management of Resources
  • Article 118: Provincial Consolidated Fund

The state confers unique responsibilities upon both the central and provincial administrations for revenue generation. Where the federal authority holds jurisdiction over major taxation realms like divisible pool taxes, non-tax revenues, grants-in-aid, etc., the provincial governments also wield the capacity to levy taxes and generate income within their territorial domains, encompassing property tax, agricultural tax, stamp duties, and self-generated profits. These revenues are housed in the Provincial Consolidated Fund and the Public Account. These measures allow the provinces to exercise autonomy in financial matters like resource allocation, public spending, and budgetary planning.

  • Article 160: National Finance Commission (NFC) Award

The NFC is an important institution in Pakistan’s fiscal federalism framework that promotes equitable distribution of the state’s national revenue between the centre and the provinces. For instance, from the divisible pool, out of every hundred rupees, the federal government receives 42.5 per cent whereas 57.5 per cent goes to the provinces. Moreover, the allocation via the 7th NFC award factors in multiple indicators instead of exclusively relying on demographic-based criteria, which had been the previous norm. This new formula considers population (82 percent), poverty and backwardness (10.3 per cent), revenue collection and generation (5 per cent), and inverse population density (2.7 per cent). In addition, operating on five-year cycles, the award assesses and revises the formula based on evolving economic conditions and changing priorities of the provinces.

  • Article 172: Equal Share in Natural Resources

The 1973 Constitution also recognizes the provincial governments’ authority over the control and management of natural resources, a facet previously lacking in preceding administrations. As per the arrangement, each province possesses a joint entitlement to explore, exploit, and utilize the natural resources situated within its respective region, encompassing minerals, oil, gas, and hydropower, among others. Nevertheless, this often calls for negotiations and agreements between federal and provincial entities to ensure an equitable sharing of benefits and the sustainability of the environment.

  1. Judicial Relationship
  • Article 175: Dual Judicial System

The judicial system in Pakistan stands on a hierarchical two-fold framework, comprising a Supreme Court and multiple High Courts. The Supreme Court’s authority covers subjects originally specified in the FLL, along with the power to hear appeals from lower courts, and exercise jurisdiction over matters of national interest. In comparison to it, the provincial High Courts handle cases related to provincial subjects exclusively. This division of jurisdiction ensures that each level of government has its own distinctive sphere of authority and responsibility, which does not meddle with the other.

  • Articles 175 (A) and 177: Collaborative Appointment of Judges

The dynamics for judicial appointments demonstrate a collaborative balance between the centre and its sub-units. Facilitated by the Judicial Commission of Pakistan, no judge is appointed without mutual consent and concurrence from both levels of government. High Court judges are selected by the President, following discussions with the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) and the respective provincial Governor. Likewise, for the Supreme Court, the President’s appointment relies on consultations with the CJP and the Chief Justices of the High Courts.

  • Article 184: Supremacy of the Supreme Court in Dispute Resolutions

The Constitution establishes the Supreme Court of Pakistan as the highest appellate court in the country, which provides a mechanism to resolve disputes between the federal and provincial governments. In situations where uncertainty arises concerning the scope of legislative or executive powers between the two units, the Supreme Court serves as a mediator, guaranteeing consistency and standardization in the implementation of legal principles throughout the country. Some notable examples illustrating its role include the Sindh High Court Bar Association vs. Federation of Pakistan case (2011) and the Pakistan Steel Mills Privatization case (2006).

How the Federalist Structure of Pakistan is Impacted by the Crises of Provincial Governments  

While the 1973 constitution provides a strong framework for center-province relations, there have been persistent challenges regarding the crises of provincial governments, which have had far-reaching ramifications for the federalist structure of the state, weakening its foundations. Some of them are discussed below:

  • Inefficient Devolution of Powers to Local Governments

Devolution of powers is a principal aspect of decentralization, which intends to bring governance closer to people and empower local communities. However, it is a satire that provincial governments, having advocated for autonomy themselves in the past, have, at times, fallen short in adequately delegating authority to the grassroots level. The continuous resistance from provinces to provide fiscal and administrative powers to the local governments has obstructed the very notion of federalism. Not only has it resulted in a concentration of power at the provincial level, but it has also eroded the principles of subsidiarity and unity of the federation. In the words of Alexis de Tocqueville,

“Federalism envisions shared governance, but resistance to local autonomy disrupts this shared vision, leaving a fractured system in its wake.”

  • Disparities in Resource Allocation

Although the Constitution strives for an equitable allocation of resources, disputes over the distribution of resources at horizontal levels have long been the bone of contention. Where smaller provinces have argued that federal resources are unfairly skewed toward provinces with larger populations, the more populous provinces have voiced grievances about inadequate service delivery. One such glaring issue is Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s share in the NFC divisible pool after the merging of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with the province, following the 25th amendment. As per the existing formula, KPK has requested additional resources based on population increase and the region’s prevailing backwardness. Thus, the financial crises in provincial governance could exacerbate inequality and regional disparities within the country.

  • Weakening Governance System

The provincial units function as the periphery of the central government and play a pivotal role in the broader governance framework. Any substantial breakdown within one of these units triggers a cascading impact on the entire center, leading to mismanagement and instability. A prime illustration can be observed in the ongoing inter-provincial conflicts, such as the water-sharing issues between Punjab and Sindh. These disputes, rooted in issues of economic disparity and administrative dominance, not only disrupt the collaborative federal structure but also present profound challenges in reaching a consensus on matters of national interest.

Critical Analysis

Critically, the nature of centre-province relations in Pakistan has consistently experienced dynamic changes throughout its history, based on changing socio-political dynamics. In contemporary times, it faces a number of challenges related to issues of resource allocation, ethnic crisis, fiscal autonomy, and inter-provincial disharmony. However, the spirit of unity in diversity, inherent in Pakistan’s constitutional fabric, holds the potential to bridge gaps and harmonize relations. Hence, by embracing open dialogue, cooperative decision-making, and demonstrating a steadfast commitment to common objectives, Pakistan can attain shared prosperity and make significant strides as a unified nation. Henry Ford has rightly said,

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”


To recap, In Pakistan’s historical journey, power dynamics between federal and provincial governments have witnessed a tug-of-war, with the central authority often hesitant to relinquish control. Nonetheless, the 1973 constitution, with its monumental 18th amendment, marked a turning point, strengthening the federalist structure in the country and reshaping the dynamics between the federal and provincial entities. To elaborate, within the legislative realm, the constitution has eliminated the CLL, empowering provinces for autonomous legislation. Additionally, in the Economic domain, it has established mechanisms like the NFC and CPF to ensure fair resource allocation. Furthermore, it has extended its impact to the administrative and judicial spheres, marked by the separation of powers and responsibilities concerning governance and adjudication. In essence, the 1973 constitution forges a harmonious blend of federal and provincial empowerment, fostering collaboration and development at every juncture.

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