Debating Federalism


The history of federalism can perhaps be traced to the days of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) when he established the first Islamic state in Madina in which the Muhajrin, Ansar and Yahud communities lived together, enjoying equal rights and respecting each other’s rights. This perhaps could be seen as the loosest form of what later came to be defined as federalism. Today 28 countries across the world practice federalism; no less than 40 percent of the world’s population resides in these federal states. Some of the countries that practice federalism are: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Ethiopia, Germany, India, Iraq, Pakistan, Spain, South Africa, United States of American, and Venezuela. Constitutional history of Pakistan is witness to three constitutions and one-unit principle, but notions of federalism materialized by Constitution Eighteenth (Amendment) Act, 2010. The Eighteenth Amendment has tried to address these issues keeping in view Pakistan’s historical context, its polity and its objective conditions. In other words, the Eighteenth Amendment throws up Pakistani federalism that learns from the experiences of others but is rooted in the Pakistani reality. The present study is interesting as it traces the history of federalism and shows the diversity of the federal arrangements. It also discusses the issues of ethnic representation and managing diversity in a state. It also examines the 18th Amendment in the light of devolution and reviews the implementation process which has devolved many ministries and functions to the provinces. This has been made possible as the Concurrent List has been repealed. The Amendment has provided ownership and participation in policy and management of natural resources, increased the legislative powers of the provincial assemblies including those on taxation. In conclusion, civil society organizations, journalists, politicians and other interest groups have a role to play in managing conflicts and creating homegrown federalism that is rooted in the local polity and ensures unity in diversity.

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