Administrative Reforms for further Devolution of Powers

‘The only way you can defeat insurgency is to remain one step ahead’

US Army Special Forces teachings on counter insurgency

It may be equally true about the demand for new provinces.

By Brig (Retd} Yasub Ali Dogar

Introduction.   Pakistan is under tremendous stress as a nation mainly due to the effects of ‘war on terror’. It is also suffering from parochial, ethnic, linguistic and sectarian strife. The divide between the haves and have-nots due to immense economic disparity and a fast dwindling middle class is further accentuating the problems. To compound its woes it has a very unwieldy administrative structure. Balochistan, the largest province has almost half its’ area (44%) but only 4.5% population, Punjab which accounts for over half of the population (56%) with another 10% living in other provinces, dominates the politics, bureaucracy and the army.

The demand for new provinces is once again making rounds with renewed vigour and strength. The renaming of NWFP as Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the reaction in Hazara resulting in casualties has acted as a catalyst for this demand. It has given added impetus to the demand of a separate province in southern parts of Punjab. The demand for Bhawalpur and Seraiki Provinces has been voiced with intensity since the break-up of one unit in 1970. It is once again gaining momentum with emotional appeals to public with more vigour. It probably will be the biggest election slogan for the next elections in Southern Punjab. It looks that sooner or later there will also be a demand for Potohar Province or even a Central Punjab Province besides Hazara and Udayana (ancient name of Swat Valley) in PK-Khyber, Mehran (Upper Sindh) in Sindh besides Karachi. Similarly within the Balochistan union, demand for separate provinces for Pakhtun areas, the Coastal belt and Nasirabad Division are in the offing sooner than later

An attempt has been made to suggest a balanced administration structure within existing provinces with minor changes. These suggestions do not require any constitutional changes or legislation. They can be enacted forthwith taking the governance within easy reach of population.

Historical Background.   It may be interesting to note the administrative evolution of Punjab after it’s annexation in 1849 after the 2nd Anglo-Sikh War. It was placed under a Board of Administration headed by a Chief Commissioner assisted by a Judicial Commissioner and a Financial Commissioner, Sir Henry Lawrence was the first Chief Commissioner followed by Sir John Lawrence. Punjab was at that time a part of the Presidency of Bengal being ruled from Fort William Calcutta in winters and Simla in summers. The Chief Commissioner had all of the powers of the Governor due to its distance from Calcutta, old and inadequate communication system prevailing at that time made it difficult to administer it directly. Punjab was later raised to the level of a Lieutenant Governor’s province in 1859. It became a Governor’s province years later I 1901. The Trans Frontier Regions (later NWFP) were under a Chief Commissioner at Peshawar from 1905 till becoming a full-fledged province in 1935. Similarly, Sindh initially a province was placed under the Presidency of Bombay under the Chief Commissioner till granted the status of a province in 1935. Balochistan was also administrated by a Chief Commissioner known as Agent General to the Governor General till 1955, it was given the status of a full-fledged province in 1970

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The Devolution Plan.   Gen Pervez Musharraf’s much touted devolution plan did devolve the powers vertically downwards, however it failed to distribute these horizontally into different regions of a Province. All powers are centralized at the provincial secretariat of all provincial departments putting public coming from distant areas at great inconvenience. A person from Sadiqabad or Rahim Yar Khan has still to come to Lahore to get an arms license as these powers have been centralized in the Provincial Government. Similarly a person from Rajanpur or Dera Ghazi Khan has to come all the way to Lahore to get his problems sorted out at the Provincial Secretariat. Similarly people in Hub are next door to Karachi, in fact it was part of Karachi division during the one unit days. Similarly people of coastal areas of Balochistan are too far away from Quetta to be beneficiaries of the Provincial largess. Haripur and Abbottabad are nearer to Islamabad than Peshawar. Punjab’s southern districts are nearer to Karachi than Lahore. Similarly the western districts are nearer to Peshawar than the provincial capital. The public in Rawalpindi, Jhelum, Attock etc finds it convenient to get their problems solved from the Federal Government rather than the Provincial Government at far away Lahore.

Aim:       The aim of this paper is to suggest devolution of administrative powers horizontally to enable easiest possible access to its citizens.

Objectives:         It has the following objectives:

The devolution of powers should be cost effective; it should reduce the cost of existing bureaucracy and not become an added burden like the previous plan of devolution.


It should use the existing administrative echelons to the maximum and not create new ones.

It should be in tune with psyche of general public and not create confusion as was done in bringing about changes in nomenclatures from time honoured designations of DC, AC etc to new ones of District Officers i.e., EDO, DO, DDO.

Suggested Changes:       Each Province may be grouped in following administrative units each headed by a Chief Commissioner:

Punjab.  It can be divided into five administrative units

Lahore.Lahore, Sahiwal and Gujranwala Divisions

Multan.   Multan and DG Khan Divisions

Bhawalpur.   Bhawalpur Division.

Rawalpindi.   Rawalpindi Division with Mianwali District

Central Punjab.   Faisalabad and Sargodha Divisions less Mianwali District.

Sindh.   Three administrative units.

Karachi.   Karachi with Thatta and Lasbela district of Balochistan.

Hyderabad.   Hyderabad and Mirpurkhas divisions.

Sukkur.   Larkana and Sukkur divisions.

Balochistan.  Five administrative units.

Quetta.   Quetta, Sibi Divisions and Mustung District.

Kalat.   Kalat, Khuzdar and Kharan Districts.

Makran.   Makran Division and Awaran District.

Zhob.  Zhob Division less Dera Bugti.

Nasirabad.  Nasirabad Division along with Dera Bugti.  A new administrative structure is suggested below.

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.   Four administrative units:

Peshawar.  Peshawar, Kohat and Mardan divisions

Dera Ismail Khan.  Bannu and D.I.K. Divisions

Malakand.   Malakand Division

Hazara.   Hazara Division

New Administrative Units:   Following new self governing administrative units are suggested:

FATA.   The Tribal Areas may also be given the status of a province with their own customary laws and traditions just like the Gilget-Baltistan Region.

Nasirabad.   Nasirabad Division along with Dera Bugti and Jacobabad districts of Sindh is ideally located to form a separate province. It may be viewed from the point of view of bringing governance within easy reach of local population. It may be borne in mind that John Jacobs was the ruler of this political entity extending from Khanpur (present Jacobabad) to Sibi in 19th century.

The Punjab districts of Bhakkar and Layyah being nearer to Dera Ismail Khan may be attached to that Administrative unit.

The districts of Lasbela, Jacobabad, Bhakkar and Layyah should be transferred to the new administrative units subject to willingness of public to accept the change.


The head of the administrative units may be designated as the Chief Commissioner or Additional Chief Secretary.

He should have all the powers enjoyed by the Chief Secretary of the Province.

The existing Commissioner‘s offices may be merged wherever two or more divisions are being grouped together.

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Similarly the Regional Police Officers offices may be combined where ever two divisions are being merged to form one IG (Police) office.

The above steps will save substantial manpower and expenditure due to merger of existing divisions to form Chief Commisionerates.

The IG (Police) of Provinces presently may be re-designated as DG (Police) as in Indian Punjab.

The Board of Revenue should be devolved to these administrative units to bring it within easy access of general public in distant places.

All powers of Secretaries of the Provinces may be devolved to the respective Directors in the field.

The manpower rendered surplus due to mergers and lessening of work load at the Provincial Secretariat may be given choice and posted to respective Chief Commissioners.

The role of Chief Secretary and DG (Police) at the provincial capital should be basically coordination between other administrative units besides looking after that Commissionerate.

The Secretaries at the Provincial Secretariat should also be given the added responsibility of necessary coordination and liaison between various Commissioners.

All Chief Commissioners should be in grade-21 and Administration Secretaries in grade-20.

The Irrigation Department.          It is having its own hierarchy on canal based administrative set up need not be devolved down wards. However the powers of Chief Engineers etc. may be restored to pre partition levels which have been withdrawn due to political interference over a period of time.

Saving in Manpower.     It is visualize that at least 25 to 30% per cent saving in manpower will occur by devolving powers downwards from the Provincial Secretariats to the Chief Commissioner’s administrative units.

Conclusion.         It is time now that the Government takes cognizance of the situation in time to forestall a Hazara like situation. The suggested administrative structure is very much in tune with present administrative set up and according to the psyche of our population. Any province can take the lead by becoming a trend setter for all other provinces in this respect by devolving more powers to outlying regions of the province as suggested. The best way to pre-empt the impending turmoil is to address these issues by taking decisions in time.

Many countries like India, Nigeria and Afghanistan etc have resorted to having more viable administrative units in order to bring governance within easy reach besides sorting out other internal issues.

Author is Ex Mayor of Lahore & Former Advisor to Governor of the Punjab