It is often argued that seven decades is just a small period in the life of a nation as nation-building requires a long period of consistent development and continuity of policies and to progress in different fields, patients need to couple with sound policymaking. In the case of Pakistan, it would be fair to acknowledge that precious gains have been achieved during the last 73 years. Much has been achieved during the last 73 years. However much has remained unfulfilled and unaccomplished. On the other hand, some political scientists also assert that the argument against the paucity of time to achieve progress is a lame excuse as various nations have achieved progress in different time spans. Some nations achieved socio-political and economic progress within decades, whereas others took more than a century to do so. It turns out that various factors are at work when progress, development, and growth are studied. Institutional failure at policymaking and implementation is cited as the principal reason why Pakistan has failed to ride the development wave which helped South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, China, and Vietnam to transform themselves into developed countries. Various factors have contributed to the inertia of Pakistan’s development. Some blame could be laid on constipated policymaking by state institutions which couldn’t predict the grave challenges the country faced and is still facing.

In the past 73 years, several instances have exposed the fragility of the national binding between the state’s federating units. There have been instances of language disputes, discord on sharing of water, the disparity in sharing energy resources and federal receipts. These issues have resulted largely due to unequal sharing of resources, greater representation of one province in the federation, and in the key political institution. It has often been argued that an overbearing Punjab with its largest population has created hegemony in the federation. It has usurped the rights of smaller provinces such as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Balochistan. How has the federation come up with solutions to the grave problem of national integration in the past 73 years? The response of the federation has not been swift to nip the evil of inter-provincial issues in the bud due to overarching and over-strengthened federal government that was shy to accept the idea of provincial autonomy. For almost 65 years, the federal government has looked after key affairs such as defence, revenue, health, education, and external affairs. Through the 18th amendment in 2010, the concurrent list mentioned in the fourth schedule to the constitution which contained around 47 subjects on which both provincial and federal government could legislate was abolished. This step paved the way for greater integration between the federating units as the intervention of the federal government was reduced, and provinces could rely on their own muscles to run their affairs. National integration has been given a boost to resolve the pressing issues of smaller provinces. The Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e- Balochistan package was announced in November 2009 with an aim to remove the misgiving of the Baloch people, provide opportunities for education and employment to their youth and integrate them into mainstream economic activities. The package also incentivised political and administrative reforms in the province to remove all bottlenecks to governance. It included special development projects for different regions of the province.

The increased provincial share is often blamed for increasing the federal budget deficit, which isn’t based on facts. A study by the Punjab government shows that the enhanced provincial share from the tax resource has contributed just 0.8pc to 1pc of GDP to the federal deficit. The real reason for the deficit lies elsewhere. For starters, Islamabad has failed to raise the tax-to-GDP ratio from 10pc to 15pc during the five-year life of the seventh award. It also continues to spend a lot of money to maintain structures of the devolved ministries and functions because of political reasons and is unable to plug the massive haemorrhaging of resources by SOEs. Devolution has done much to strengthen the federation. The centre should focus on raising taxes, cutting its unnecessary expenditure, and pulling out of devolved functions. It should look ahead and not attempt to reverse the progress made so far.

The 25th Amendment to the Constitution was passed which enabled the merger of FATA and KP, prior to the enactment of the 25th Amendment, the tribal agencies were under federal government and no election took place in this region. It underscored the will of the people of erstwhile FATA to enable the tribal region to achieve a level of prosperity that will gradually bring it at par with the rest of the country.

Throughout the years of independence Pakistan has suffered because of the curse of inequality. Not only are citizens unequal in an economic sense they are not equal in the political sense either. So long as a majority has its political decisions made by landlords and pirs, or is caught up in its struggle for national rights, the people cannot sustain a democratic polity. The 18th Amendment strengthened the provinces, put institutional arrangements in place for implementing constitutional reforms and thus took a big leap forward in the direction of mature federalism.