South Punjab: President forms committee to push for one new province

President Asif Ali Zardari

LAHORE: The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) will press ahead on the issue of new provinces – but is looking to create just one new unit in south Punjab for the time being, as opposed to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)’s  move to propose two.

However, whether it will be a ‘Seraiki’ province or ‘Bahawalpur’ is still undecided.President Asif Ali Zardari has given a go-ahead to the party to draft legislation on the formation of a south Punjab and has constituted a high-level committee, which has to submit its recommendations in three months, sources privy to the development told Media.

In a meeting at the President House on Monday between President Zardari and parliamentarians from south Punjab, a number of key proposals and some decisions were made on a new province. The proposals will be weighed at meetings of the new committee.The committee will operate under the supervision of federal minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin, and members Senator Sughra Imam and Minister for Religious Affairs Syed Khurshid Shah will finalise the recommendations.

The mandate

According to details, the committee, among other things, will ponder over the new south Punjab province, and its name.There is one particularly interesting proposal.There are two main schools of thoughts – one supporting a linguistic-based ‘Seraiki’ province and the other an administrative-based Bahawalpur province – but the PPP has decided to create just one new unit. Therefore, the party will look to pacify the ones whose idea does not materialise.

How will the PPP do this?

If the party goes ahead with a ‘Seraiki’ province, the provincial headquarters will be Bahawalpur city – and if it goes ahead with Bahawalpur province, then the capital will be Multan.In the preliminary stage, industrial zones will be established between Multan and Bahawalpur and later expanded into three zones.

Composition

According to ambitious proposals, aside from the 11 districts of three divisions, Multan, Dera Ghazi Khan and Bahawalpur, the new province would also look to carve out Bhakkar, Mianwali and Jhang.

Pakpattan, which is one district of Sahiwal division, would also be included. President Zardari wanted the entire Sahiwal division but some of his party members belonging to the area advised him against this. The committee will decide on this matter now.

The next step

According to sources, President Zardari said that recommendations of the party committee would be forwarded to the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reforms (PCCR), which would draft the bill of a 21st Amendment for the formation of South Punjab province.PCCR would perform its role as commission and to finalize all issues including demarcation and financial issues.

Senator Sughra Imam while talking with Media confirmed the sources’ claims, and said that the party committee had already started working.Sub-article 4 of Article 239 states that a bill needs to be moved by two-thirds of Parliament – and then sent to the concerned provincial assembly, which also needs two-thirds of the house to pass it.  The president will then sign it.“The timing of the formation depends on the final drafting of the committee – whether it does a bulk of the work before budget or after the budget” said sources. – TheTribune