Centre-Province Relations in an Islamic Republic: A Case of the Centre-Punjab Relations During Benazir Bhutto’s First Government (1988-1990) in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan

  • Imran Shahzad Research Graduate Trainee at Department of Political Science, McGill University, Montreal Canada
  • Akhtar Hussain Assistant Professor, at the Department of History and Pakistan Studies, International Islamic University Islamabad
Keywords: Islamic State, Federation, Centre-Province relations, Benazir, Punjab, Pakistan


Centre-province relations have always been an exemplary note in the discussion about the theory and practice of Islamic State. Relations between the Centre and the Units always play pivotal role in the smooth functioning of the government in any federation. Cordiality of this relationship becomes most important where there is marked numerical difference in the population of the federating units. In case of Pakistan this reality has proved even more important as one of the federating units i.e., Punjab carries numerical majority than rest of the three federating units together. Being the most populous province of Pakistan, its support is not only a key for the success of any government in the centre but is also vital for the smooth functioning of the federal structure of the country. However, in spite of this, the relationship between the centre and the Punjab remained far from exemplary since inception of the state. For instance during the early fifties the Daultana government in Punjab encouraged anti-Ahmadi rites to create problems for the federal government of Nazimuddin. Contrary to this during the tenure of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Zia ul Haq, the Punjab government was nothing to do but to act upon the instructions of the central government. Conversely, when Benazir, the first woman prime minister of Muslim world came into power in 1988 differences deepened and the relations between the federal government and the Punjab remained highly tense. During this period both the governments did not make any serious efforts to improve their relations. Benazir’s failure to develop smooth relations with the Punjab government was one of the major causes of her government’s premature dismissal. The present paper is an effort to understand the Centre- Punjab relationship during the first tenure of Benazir’s government and to dig out the multifarious causes and factors which were responsible for the alienation between the two governments and ultimate end of Benazir’s Government in 1990.