How Far Has The Nature Of Centre-Province Relations Changed Under Various Amendments To The 1973 Constitution?



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The constitutional history of Pakistan has witnessed numerous ups and downs in the centre’s powers under various amendments to the constitution of Pakistan. However, under the 18th amendment to the constitution of Pakistan, provinces have got autonomy, and Pakistan has become a true federation.

Historical Background of the Center-Province Relations

Ups and Downs in centre province relations under Various Amendments 

  • 1973 Constitution, when enforced
  • 8th amendment
  • 13th amendment
  • 17th amendment

18th Amendment: A Step Towards Provincial Autonomy and Federalism

  • Eradication of Article 58 2(b) and 112 2(b)
  • Abolishment of the Concurrent List: devolution of Powers from Center to ProvincesTransfer of subjects from Federal List 1 to Federal list 2 
  • Article 140(A): Local governments
  • Article 172: Share of Provinces in Natural resources
  • Article 128: Curtailment of The Governor’s Powers 
  • Article 232: Impossible to proclaim emergence without the consent of the respective provincial government
  • Article 38: Principles of Policy 
  • Article 154 CCI must sit after 90 days
  • Article 157: to consult the provincial government for the hydro-electric power station 
  • Article 160: NFC AWARD

Critical Analysis 


Answer to the Question


Pakistan’s centre-province relations under the 1973 constitution have been changed over time until the 18th amendment to the constitution of Pakistan. It is a struggle that has achieved overall results in the shape of Provincial autonomy and federalism. As determined by its forefathers, Pakistan’s vision was based on a strong federation. Unfortunately, forthcoming leaders hegemonized powers and kept Pakistan under a strong centre for their vested interests. Due to this reason, the grievances of provinces were exacerbated, and the struggle for autonomy continued. Though the provinces achieved minuscule achievements, these achievements were short-term and did not significantly impact the centre-province relations. The real change in the centre-province relation has occurred due to the 18th amendment. Numerous articles of the constitution of Pakistan 1973 are revisited to bring provincial autonomy and federalism to the country. Among them, the most significant steps are the scrapping of the notorious article 58 2(b) and the abolishment of the concurrent list from the constitution of Pakistan. Apart from that, various changes are also made in important areas of the constitution to strengthen parliament and federation. As a result of this, Quaid-e-Azam’s vision of federalism is achieved as defined by him in 1945 in the following words:

 “The theory of Pakistan guarantees that federal units of the national government would have all the autonomy that you will find in the constitution of the United States, Canada, and Australia. But certain vital powers will remain vested in the central government such as monetary system, national defence, and federal responsibilities.”

Since the first act of 1858 by the British government had been enforced in the sub-continent, the struggle for provincial rights had been started by the indigenous population. Congress had started this mantra, and then the Muslim league had joined it with an additional demand for separate electorates. This ideology of federalism and provincial autonomy was the basis of the Muslim League’s struggle before the start of the Pakistan Movement in 1940. Unfortunately, after the independence in 1947, two notorious constitutions were enforced: 1956 and 1962. The rights of provinces were ignored, which engendered numerous Socioeconomic issues in the country. When the 1973 constitution was enforced, a parliamentary form of government was formed, and the step was made in the right direction, but it was short-term and could not be matured. Thereafter, notorious 58 2(b) had ruled the country for three decades. Moreover, dictatorial regimes had regulated laws to strengthen the centre and prolong their unjust tenures.

For the first time in the history of Pakistan, the Constitution of 1973 has made Pakistan a federation, and a parliamentary form of government has given provinces autonomy to a certain extent. Democracy had been strengthened, along with the improvisation of the provincial role running in the country. Meanwhile, the 8th amendment was made by the then-dictator Zia-ul-Haq to hold the reign of government in his hand so that the elected government could not become more than a puppet. Then, this was removed through the 13th amendment, but it was reimposed by another dictator Pervaiz Musharaf through the 17th amendment. The centre had innumerable powers during his tenure, and governments were bound to follow the orders. The provinces’ presidents and governors were much stronger than the Prime minister and chief ministers of the provinces. Hence, the struggle for provincial autonomy continued for three decades.

First, the abrogation of dictatorial articles 58 2(b) and 112 2(b) is one of the prime reasons Pakistan is a true federation. These articles gave enormous powers to the president and governors of the provinces in the parliamentary form of government to declare the elected assemblies null and void whenever they deemed it necessary without any accountability. This article has its roots in the colonial era. Britishers formulated such acts to continue their stronghold on Indians even after giving them some rights through various acts. Interestingly, in Pakistan, the same practice was followed after the independence by egoistic leaders. By scrapping these articles, these powers are transferred to the respective assemblies. Hence, centre province relations are improved in this way.  

Second, in the 1973 constitution of Pakistan, there used to exist two lists total of forty-seven subjects: federal and concurrent. Subjects in the former list can be legislated by the national assembly, while the latter comes under the domain of both federal and provincial assemblies. However, if there is a dispute on any law, federal legislation would supersede the provincial legislation. It severely undermines the provincial powers to make laws on its own. Hence, by the abrogation of the concurrent list, all of the forty-seven subjects have come directly under the domain of provinces. The authority of various departments like health, education, and tourism has been devolved into the provinces. Thus, devolution of powers occurs from the centre to the provinces, making Pakistan a federalist.

Next, there is also a transfer of various subjects from the federal list I to federal list II. The subjects-census, major ports, use of police force from one province to another- in the second list are liable to discuss in the Council of Common Interest (CCI). Thereby, the province’s role has been enhanced in this way. Then, a new article 140 (a) is introduced that deals with the formulation of local government. It means devolving the governing powers of the country into three tiers: federal to provincial and provincial to local. In this way, local issues, such as street cleaning, waste disposal system, and maintenance of roads could be fixed.

Similarly, there also occurs a drastic change in the province’s role in sharing natural resources by amending article 172. Provinces become joint and co-equal owners with the federal government in oil, minerals, natural gas, and water in their respective provinces. Also, by amending article 128, the governor’s role in the province’s affairs is curtailed. Previously, a governor could extend the ordinance several times before its expiration life of ninety days. This power is not only transferred to the provincial assembly but can be exercised only once. Moreover, under the amendment of article 232, a governor could not proclaim an emergency without the consent of the provincial assembly in any case.

Likewise, under the new article 38, the senate’s working days are increased from 90 to 110. And there occurs a ban on issuance of ordinances when the senate is in session. Furthermore, the governor should belong to the same province. Article 154 has made it necessary for the council of common Interest to conduct at least one sitting in 90 days and to have a permanent secretariat. Apart from that, article 157 bounds the federal government to consult the provincial government before sanctioning or banning any hydropower project in its territory.

Lastly, article 160 is amended that deals with the National Finance Commission Award (NFC). it defines the revenue distribution between the centre and provinces. Furthermore, it bounds the provinces to revive it after every five years and that the share of the province can not be less than the previous share. As a result, a remarkable 7th NFC award is formed for the first time, considering aspects other than population. Moreover, provinces are also given the right to raise domestic or independent loans for themselves. In this way, just and equitable distribution of resources could become possible to promote inter-provincial harmony and cordial centre-province relations.

Critically, the 18th amendment is a landmark achievement that is achieved after a struggle of at least one and a half-century. For Pakistan, it is a much-needed step not only because it was a dream of the founding fathers but also because it is necessary for Pakistan’s survival and national integrity. Previously, one of the pivotal reasons for the dismemberment of East Pakistan lies in the fusion of powers by the centre. Now, the same reason is the cause of unease in Balochistan. Fortunately, a wise step has been taken at the right time by making Pakistan a true federation.

To conclude, it is the need of the hour to make provinces autonomous and independent in various aspects. Numerous amendments in the constitution of Pakistan 1973, especially the 18th amendment, have made Pakistan a true federation. Decades of struggle have been accomplished. Fusion of power by the centre is neither viable nor just. However, dictators and selfish rulers prefer it for the hegemonic sustenance of their rule. Nonetheless, by amending the constitution, centre to province and province to province relations are improved, which has helped enhance national integrity and brotherhood.  

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