We have a state, but it has no structure. We have all the institutions, but they also lack sound foundations. This makes me wonder that in the last 75 years, all we have done is make half-hearted attempts to find solutions on the surface without digging deep and trying to understand the real challenges we face. I have commented numerous times on the economic and political unrest, its effects and its consequences. However, today after analysing our continuous struggle in emerging as a consolidated nationalistic unit, I want to talk about the challenge that has remained unresolved in all these decades. Call it federalism or provincialism or whatever, I call it a sensible allocation of provincial resources and an effective devolution of power. We celebrate March 23 every year in full zeal without even realising that the true spirit of the Lahore Resolution 1940 can only be achieved when federating units become sovereign and autonomous. Consequently, the Objective Resolution 1949 states, “Pakistan shall be a federation with autonomous units.” Similarly, the resolution also highlights that the dominance of a single strong province over other weaker provinces is unconstitutional. Punjab alone comprises 57.4 per cent of the national population and 26.7 per cent of the land area, whilst Balochistan comprises a little less than half the land area and 5. per cent of the people. Punjab has historically been a significant recipient of National Finance Commission (NFC) payments based on population alone, given its bigger population share. In contrast, between 2001 and 2012, Sindh was the highest contributor to average tax collection, contributing 65 per cent of the total tax collection. The existence of contradictory laws and political differences hinder the creation of new provinces and the strengthening of Pakistan as a federating unit. With the National Finance Commission Award, the federal government will send Rs 4.1 trillion to the provinces from its receipts during the next fiscal year. This transfer is 16.73 per cent (or Rs600 billion) greater than the last revised budgetary allocations and 20.116 per cent (or Rs690 billion) greater than the previous year’s budgeted allocations. In the new fiscal year of 2022-23, the provinces are expected to receive Rs 4.1 trillion (Rs 4,100 billion) from their share in federal revenues under the National Finance Commission Award and straight transfers. This represents a 16.73 per cent increase over the revised budgetary allocation for the financial year 2020-21, estimated at Rs3.5 trillion, and a 20.16 per cent increase over the budgetary allocation of Rs3.41 trillion in the previous fiscal year. Punjab is expected to get Rs2.02 trillion, Sindh Rs1.029 trillion, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Rs670.451 billion, and Balochistan Rs370.234 billion from the federal government’s total revenues in 2022-23. While Punjab was given Rs1.669 trillion for the current fiscal year 2021-22, Sindh was allocated Rs848.208 billion, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was allocated Rs559.257 billion, and Balochistan was allocated Rs313.286 billion. Within this allocation, we are aware of financial discrepancies and corruption that impede fund transfers to other districts within the province. There are many provinces under discussion or that have been brought into the debate, including Bahawalpur Province, Karachi Province (Jinnahpur Province / Muhajir Sooba), Hazara Province and more. Interestingly, the constitutional requirement for new provinces does not make it easy. To carve out a new section from any existing area, Article 239(4) of the Constitution makes it mandatory to muster a two-thirds majority in the concerned provincial assembly and a two-thirds majority in the parliament. With the three-tiered national, regional and local governance system, the struggle for a new province that could strengthen each federating unit becomes real, politically challenging and economically expensive. On the contrary, the 18th amendment strengthens the federating units and their roles. The primary reason for these positive effects is that the amendment ensures complete provincial authority. The concurrent legislative list is repealed, and the 4th schedule of the constitution contains only one legislative list, the federal legislative list, which includes 59 subjects of a federal nature. All remaining issues, except for criminal law, criminal procedure, and evidence (Article 142), are delegated to provincial legislatures, along with any remaining authorities. Article 143 of the Constitution stipulates that federal legislation will prevail in the event of a conflict. Seventeen ministerial authorities are transferred to provinces, and seven issues are brought under the Council of Common Interest, an organisation comprising representatives from the federation and provinces. Among the seven subjects governed by the Council are water-related issues, hydropower project development, and oil and gas extraction. The dilemma here is the existence of contradictory laws and political differences that hinder the creation of new provinces and the strengthening of Pakistan as a federating unit. The government’s decision to “develop a mechanism to hold provinces accountable” for how they spend the money they receive from the federal tax pool as part of the NFC award is nonsensical at best and unconstitutional at worst. It will also be viewed as an attempt by the central government to deflect public attention from its failures in implementing reforms to increase tax revenues, reducing its growing current expenditure, and shrinking its size despite the devolution of several significant functions to the federating units following the passage of the 18th Amendment. Pakistan continues to suffer due to the inability to take effective decisions, which has both social and economic implications and can only be avoided if the leadership and judiciary put their foot down in giving structure to the state through concrete constitutional steps. If not, the chances of the country’s disintegrating become very real. The writer is the Foreign Secretary-General for BRI College, China. He tweets @DrHasnain_javed.