A day after the prime minister publicly announced support for a Seraiki province, the main opposition party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), cautioned the government against a hasty decision on an issue that could have long-term implications for the country.
“Decisions like these which affect the country’s future must only be announced after thorough consultation, and not at press conferences without prior deliberation,” PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif told reporters in Lahore on Monday.
“The federal cabinet should take up the issue (of new provinces) and all political parties must evolve a consensus in the best national interest,” he added.
The PML-N had earlier proposed that a commission be set up to deliberate on the matter and had opposed Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s move to get a bill passed by Parliament in favour of a South Punjab province. The party had also successfully opposed the issue’s inclusion in the recently passed 20th constitutional amendment.
Nawaz also came down hard on the powerful security establishment. He said that though he lauded the Pakistan Army’s services in combating terrorism, army generals entering politics would push the nation towards turmoil.
In a reference to former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, he said army generals who toppled democratic governments leave the country grappling with the consequences of their unconstitutional acts.
Asked about his party’s policy on military operations, the PML-N chief said that when he was in power, there was no terrorism and no suicide attacks. “We brought all such elements to the negotiation table. Ours was the government that amicably defused the situation when Soviet troops withdrew from Afghanistan,” he said.
“Terrorism and extremism wouldn’t have been able to take roots in Pakistan if civilian governments were not overthrown by generals.”
Earlier Nawaz presided over the party’s general council meeting which was convened to elect office-bearers for Punjab.
Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif gained an unsurprising victory after being elected president of PML-N’s Punjab chapter unopposed. The key post of provincial general secretary, however, remained vacant.
Over 1,500 party workers – including 1,200 councillors – attended the general council meeting.
Chairman of PML-N’s election cell Ghouse Ali Shah announced that Jaffar Iqbal was elected senior vice president. He, then, asked Shahbaz to nominate a general secretary. Party officials told The Express Tribune that Shahbaz was ready to name Raja Ashfaq Sarwar – but Senator Ishaq Dar put his foot down.
According to the officials, Mian Baleeghul Rehman, an MNA from Bahawalpur, and Saifuddin Khosa, an MNA from Dera Ghazi Khan, led the group of dissidents saying they wanted the post to be filled by someone from South Punjab.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 6th, 2012.