M Ali Siddiqi delineates a relevant issue of Federation and confederation
Pakistan is a Federation and confederation comprising of federating units coexisting within a federal formula. The Federation and confederation decision to consider the undivided India as a federation was taken in the 1930s when the colonial British imperium invited all-India political leadership to three successive round table conferences that decided that the future of the subcontinent will be the federal form of governance. Keeping in view the typicality of the territorial and demographic factors existing in the subcontinent federal form was widely accepted by the political leadership of the subcontinent. After its acceptance by the Indian political leadership the British government designed a bipartisan committee of the British parliament in which Indians were also given adequate representation that worked hard to come up with an acceptable constitution for the future federal rule. In this context the central figure chairing this parliamentary committee, Lord Linlithgow, was later on rewarded the viceroyalty of India who ended up retaining this office for the longest period in modern era.
By the end of the British rule, the first and only federal elections of united India were held right after the Second World War in 1946 that resulted in establishment of the first federal cabinet in which Congress and Muslim League were given appropriate representation. Although this federal cabinet soon became difficult to handle and indirectly contributed to the ultimate partition of the subcontinent but the relevance of this concept was accepted by the political leadership on both sides of the divide. This concept proved very potent and despite federal governance getting disrupted frequently the adherence to this form remained deeply etched in Pakistan’s political psyche with the result that all military dispensations had to give back power to the civil federal political parties.
In this context it was pointed out that the term federation is used to refer to groupings of states, often on a regional basis, that establish central executive machinery to implement policies or to supervise joint activities. In most cases such groupings are motivated primarily by political or economic concerns and evolve a consensus-based decision making. It is very clear that in federal systems, political authority is divided between two autonomous sets of governments, one national and the other sub-national, both of which operate directly with the consent of the people. Usually a constitutional division of power is established between the national government, which exercises authority over the whole national territory, and provincial governments that exercise independent authority within their own territories. The current federal countries include Russia, Canada, the United States, Brazil, Australia, India, Argentina, Pakistan and Malaysia, among others.
Interestingly, the governmental structures and political processes found in these federal systems show great variety. This variety is due to the perceptive consensus oriented segments of federal states that wish to manage their governance affairs according to the type convenient to them. The principal agencies of federal government are a bicameral legislature composed of a federal representative institution representing the people directly and an upper house representing the constituent members as entities. The executive authority in such states is vested in a governance structure that is elected by both houses of the legislature in joint session. The federation is underpinned by a superior judicial apparatus that renders decisions on matters affecting provincial and federal relations. Pakistan falls in this category though the federal system it inherited had been badly disrupted by arbitrary interventions for most of the existence of the country.
One can witness a contrast in the Russian Federation’s arrangements, although of a markedly different kind, also reflect the cultural and linguistic diversity of the country. Depending on their size and on the territories they have historically occupied, ethnic minorities may have their own autonomous republic, region, or district. These divisions provide varying degrees of autonomy in setting local policies and provide a basis for the preservation of the minorities’ cultures. It is not uncommon for Russians to constitute a plurality of the population in these areas. The national government consists of the executive branch, led by the nationally elected president; the parliament; and a judicial branch that resolves constitutional matters.
In other systems, federal arrangements are found in conjunction with a large measure of cultural homogeneity. The Constitution of the US delegates to the federal government certain activities that concern the whole people, such as the conduct of foreign relations and war and the regulation of interstate commerce and foreign trade; certain other functions are shared between the federal government and the states and the remainder is reserved for the states. Although these arrangements require two separate bodies of political officers, two judicial systems, and two systems of taxation, they also allow extensive interaction between the federal government and the states. Thus, the election of Congress and the president, the process of amending the Federation and confederation, the levying of taxes, and innumerable other functions necessitate cooperation between the two levels of government and bring them into a tightly interlocking relationship.
On the other hand is the concept and practice of confederations that are rated as voluntary associations of independent states that, to secure some common purpose, agree to certain limitations on their freedom of action and establish some joint machinery of consultation or deliberation. The limitations on the freedom of action of the member states may be as trivial as an acknowledgment of their duty to consult with each other before taking some independent action or as significant as the obligation to be bound by majority decisions of the member states. Very pointedly, confederations usually fail to provide for an effective executive authority and lack viable central governments as their member states typically retain their separate military establishments and separate diplomatic representation; and members are generally accorded equal status with an acknowledged right of secession from the Federation and confederation.