British India had provinces like United Provinces, North-West Frontier Province, etc. Why did independent India name them as states whereas Pakistan continued with provinces?

By Sunil Kumar

Only a matter of terminology. Difference between provinces and states is largely a measure of history; the role of the central government; the polity and decision makers; the size of the country and its legal institutions and media.

Japan for example is a small country with prefectures; e.g Osaka, Yokohama etc.

Coming to India and Pakistan. Both obtained their independence from Britain in 1947. At the time; they were a mixture of provinces(subordinate to the British government); presidencies and princely states.

Due to a more vociferous public process; a vibrant open debating democracy; language movements, regional pride; Indian constitution was amended to create “states”. Most of these units have a larger degree of autonomy and not merely an administrative concept. They are not entirely subservient to the centre; although practically most political interests create contrary situations.

On the other hand; Pakistan since 1947 has had less of democracy; and more Army Rule. Starting with Karachi and then Pindi as their capital; an area near Rawalpindi(Pakistan Army HQ) was developed and became their official government centre in 1967. Under the influence of the army, ISI and religious zealots; Pakistani provinces have always lacked the degree of autonomy present in Indian states.

Also; this is a pet theory I have. Pakistanis have always been enamoured and hateful of their erstwhile greatest supporter and top financier; the United States. Their government is also called “Federal” on North American lines and they have a Senate.

Also; a federation is technically a political entity characterised by a union of partially self-governing regions under a central (federal) government. Both India and Pakistan have lazy and archaic bureaucracies which work extremely slowly to overhaul legacy procedures. Whatever is in place remains the same for many decades.

India; on the other hand is more modelled on the Westminster(British) style of parliamentary democracy which has now evolved into something very distinctly “desi”. United Provinces became Uttar Pradesh; Central Provinces: Madhya Pradesh, Bombay Presidency land was split between many states; ditto for Madras Presidency etc. Each state longed for its own identity and governance; apart from regional political movements which had full freedom to thrive. 

North West Frontier Province for example is now known as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa after a Presidential ordinance by Zardari in 1910. Most Pakistanis would be referring to their states internally as the Urdu “subah”(province); the heads as the Sadr of Punjab or the Sadr of Sind. So; again cultural reasons for sticking to the “province” moniker.

India’s democracy; vibrant media(loud, paid, free: your personal opinion) and long legacy of argumentative debate is quite happy in sticking to “states”(thought, anarchy, innovation,happiness; take your prick sorry pick).


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