Around 40 percent of the world population is living in 28 countries including Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Ethiopia, Germany, India, Iraq, Pakistan, Spain, South Africa, United States of American and Venezuela etc where federalism is being practiced.

The Muslims of the subcontinent wanted to have a separate homeland to live independently with dignity and prosperity and to be free from the clutches of dominant Hindus – the majority population. The federal system was one of the best options for Pakistan to hold the rich and diverse cultural, linguistic, geographical and religious groups of the region united.

However, over the years, the process of over centralisation and maintaining strong hold of the center over the federating units resulted in backwardness of the smaller provinces, FATA, northern areas and Gilgit-Baltistan.

If religion was the only binding force for nation building, then probably, we could have not lost the East Pakistan. It is rather the deep rooted sense of deprivation, long held reservations, and the unmet genuine demands of the people on different socio-cultural, political, economical, and linguistic grounds that divide them.

The ethno-linguistic fissures surfaced with full force in 1971 which ended in separation of East Pakistan forming a new country called Bangladesh. It is thought that had there been consociational regime in place which could accommodate minority concerns in army and bureaucracy-led institutional arrangements, the federal system could hold together the two wings i.e., East and West Pakistan.

Often the cultural diversity and social heterogeneity carry seeds of potential conflicts. India remained more conflict prone than Pakistan but it was Pakistan which experienced secession. Among the current challenges that the country is being faced with are persistent regional inequalities. It is argued that the federal system in Pakistan has not been successful enough to contain severe ethno-linguistic conflicts.

The country does seem in extreme danger of losing its collective identity but if unresolved some issues related to regional disparities may become difficult to handle. There is a need to generate more space for the people of Balochistan to become part of the mainstream political, social and economic development process. A sense is growing that the stronger institutions of the state which do not have adequate representation from Balochistanis violating laws with impunity.

It was due to the fear of denial of the political, economic and cultural rights which often resulting into polarisation between the federation and provinces, the 1973 Constitution came into existence. The constitution envisages a federal system with provinces having more financial and administrative powers as compared to the previous constitutions. However, unfortunately the Constitution of 1973 was not implemented in letter and spirit and military dictatorships led to further centralization.

The 18th Amendment and the National Finance Commission (NFC) were introduced to correct this misbalance in the federal structure and to rectify the damages done over the years to the constitution and federal structure. For strengthening the spirit of federation, the Council of Common Interest (CCI) was created. The Council had exclusive jurisdiction over hearing of complaints regarding water supplies from the natural sources and to formulate policies related to railways, electricity, oil and gas, and industrial development.

The smaller provinces had reservations over the Gas Infrastructure Development Cess (GIDC) Bill 2014,discrepancies in China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)regarding the western route, political induction in federal government offices and universities from the major province and delaying of conducting population census etc. If the trend continued, people of the smaller provinces would start abusing the major province over their deprivations, as had happened in East Pakistan.

Prior to taking decisions that affecting the interests of the smaller provinces; consent should be obtained from the federating units as in such cases prior consultations is a must under the Article 154 of the constitution. The CCI or any other such forums could be utilised for giving space and representations to the minority groups for avoiding the adverse impact on national harmony.

Pakistan needs to bring consociational regimes so that the voices of the excluded segments of the society are heard and mainstreamed in the political set-ups. Such approach would help in protecting the rights of under-rep-resented ethnicities and boosting genuine consultative process and wider representation of different social groups.

This is the time to address the genuine issues on rational ground and accommodate the sentiments of the Baloch, Sindhi, Pashtun, Saraiki, other religious and ethnic minorities and people hailing from GB and FATA in decision-making processes in a better way to let the federation get strengthened.