A portentous move

A move pregnant with highly dangerous portents, not excluding further division of the country into smaller independent units, has been set afoot by those vested interests who are espousing the creation of a Seraiki province. At a time when parochial feelings are at their highest pitch since Pakistan came into being, there is dire need to work for the regeneration of a sense of unity and nationhood among the people living in different parts of the country.

Instead, some short-sighted politicians from the Seraiki belt have at times been voicing their desire for a separate province basing it on the unproven charge of discrimination. Similarly, the MQM, which has now opposed the carving out of a separate province from Sindh, had in the past made this very demand for the Urdu-speaking people. It is noteworthy that Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif has denied that he ever suggested the establishment of another province from Sindh, as attributed to him by the media. Rather, he said that the issue of more provinces in all its comprehensiveness, including whether there was need for more provinces to be made out of Sindh or any other existing province, would be taken up at the party (PML-N) level. Mian Shahbaz’s comments about the question of having more provinces were in response to the justification for a separate Seraiki province that the PPP had suddenly found, even at its highest level.

The reasons for the PPP coming out in support of the local leaders’ demands are not hard to find. It no longer perceives the PML-N, ruling Punjab, as a friendly opposition; if not poised to topple the PPP-led federal government should an occasion arise, the PML-N is at least out to create problems for it. A separate Seraiki political set-up would likely make a dent in its influence in the national politics. Besides, with its poor record of governance, even outright disobedience to the judiciary by flouting its verdicts, the PPP very well understands its public rating going downhill. With another province on the map, it believes to gain support to counter the effect of its unpopularity. In the process, it has turned a blind eye to the fact that the move would fan the already existing parochial sentiments, in sharp contrast to the need of the hour i.e. to create a sense of nationhood.

Thus, the whole things boils down to the sad reality of a total disregard of national interests by the PPP, which has been joined by other partners in the ruling coalition, in this highly portentous move. It amounts to playing with the sacred principle of safeguarding the integrity of the country. A Seraiki province would open a Pandora’s Box, and other local influential persons would issue similar calls just to figure more prominently on the national political scene. The MQM, for instance, could revive its demand for a separate province, citing linguistic or any other reason. Experience in various parts of the world, including Pakistan, has shown that smaller units are not necessarily better governed; they only put additional burden on the exchequer, which is the last thing we should be thinking about at this moment of straitened circumstances. – Nation