President Asif Zardari has asked the National Assembly speaker to formally initiate the process of carving out two new provinces in southern Punjab – a move aimed at consolidating the Pakistan Peoples Party’s position in the key Seraiki region with parliamentary polls just around the corner.
In his message to the National Assembly on Wednesday, the president asked the speaker to constitute a commission to start the process of creating the new provinces and to also revive the status of Bahawalpur as a province.
In order to implement the resolutions passed by the national and Punjab assemblies, “… before a process is initiated to amend the Constitution … it is expedient that a commission may be constituted comprising six members from the Senate to be nominated by the chairman; six members from the National Assembly to be nominated by the speaker and two members from the Punjab Assembly to be nominated by the Punjab Assembly speaker,” the message read.
“The commission shall look into issues relating to a fair distribution of economic and financial resources, demarcation, allocation / readjustment of seats in the National Assembly, Senate and the concerned provincial assembly and allocation of seats in the new province on the basis of population, including seats of minorities and women and other constitutional, legal and administrative matters. The provision of the constitution which would require amendment inter alia includes Articles 1(2), 51, 59 and 106 of the Constitution,” it added.
The commission would submit its report to the speaker as well as to the prime minster within 30 days of its notification in the official gazette. This will be followed by an amendment to the Constitution.
The message was read out by Deputy Speaker Faisal Karim Kundi after which Religious Affairs Minister Syed Khursheed Shah, on behalf of the house as per rules, authorised the speaker to nominate six members from the house.
“This message has been sent to the speaker in line with the rules of business and is the first formal step towards the creation of new provinces,” an official from the NA Secretariat told The Express Tribune, while clarifying the confusion about a similar reference sent by the president a few months ago.
Responding to a question, he said there was no timeframe for the speaker to complete the process of nomination.
Parties jump the bandwagon
Moments after the message was read out, Jamshed Dasti from the ruling PPP demanded that the districts of DI Khan and Tank, in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), should also be included in Janoobi (Seriaki) Punjab.
“The commission will look into the matter,” was the reply of Kundi, who himself belongs to DI Khan.
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement also jumped at the chance, with Dr Abdul Qadir Khanzada reiterating the demand of a Hazara province in K-P.
The Awami National Party has strongly opposed the move of a Hazara province, which was brought to the house by the MQM.
The deputy speaker adjourned the house till Thursday.
Earlier, the government deferred a bill seeking to provide the setting up and operation of special economic zones in Pakistan (The Special Economic Zones Bill, 2012), after members from PML-N and ANP raised concerns over it.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 12th, 2012.
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