President Asif Ali Zardari’s recent visit to the land of saints managed to spark fresh debate on the issue of new provinces. In Multan, the president announced the establishment of Seraiki Bank . The idea seems fine but shouldn’t their first be a Seraiki province, and then the bank can follow?
Furthermore, if the president was earnest about resolving problems faced by Multan’s business community, he could have directed the state-owned National Bank of Pakistan to issue loans along the same lines that its provides to people in, say, Sindh. There is also the argument that creating a Seraiki province may fan provincialism.
The Constitution has a specified mechanism for establishing a new province and if the government is serious about a Seraiki province it should follow that. Under Article 239, any of the two houses of parliament can move a bill seeking to alter the geographical boundaries of a province. The bill has to be passed by a two-thirds majority in both houses and then travel to the provincial assembly of the province concerned. Right now, it seems that the PPP is using this issue only as a means to garner votes in the coming election.
In fact, if there is anything that needs to be done, it is the restoration of the Bahawalpur province. This has more weight given that it was a separate entity before the proclamation of One Unit in 1954 and was merged with Punjab only in 1969.
Lecturer, Punjab College
Published in The Express Tribune, April 29th, 2012.