The treasury benches in the Punjab Assembly (PA) on Monday rejected a Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) proposal for the formation of a single southern Punjab province rather than two separate ones.
Meanwhile the opposition in the assembly endorsed the federal government’s proposed bill for the formation of a Bahwalpur province in the region that would include DG Khan and Multan, and demanded that PA Speaker Rana Iqbal Khan nominate two members from the house for representation on the commission for the formation of new provinces.
Speaking on a point of order, Noor Haider Niazi of the Mutahidda Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) noted that the Punjab Assembly had passed two resolutions on the matter, one for the formation of a South Punjab province and one for the formation of a Bahawalpur province in order to restore the autonomous status the region enjoyed until 1955.
He said that the PPP proposal would include the areas of DG Khan, Multan, Muzaffargarh, Rajanpur, Mianwali, Layyah, Lodhran, Bahawalnagar and Rahim Yar Khan in the Bahawalpur province. He said that the PPP should ask the people of these districts whether they wanted to be part of a Bahawalpur province before tabling the bill in the assembly. He said that Mianwalai should not be part of the Bahawalpur province.
PML-N MPA from Multan Chaudhry Waheed said that Multan and Muzaffargarh should not be included in the proposed Bahawalpur province. Shaukat Mehmood Basra of the PPP, speaking on a point of order, said that forming a new province in southern Punjab would reduce the sense among people of the region that they were being deprived of their rights.
Leader of the Opposition Raja Riaz said that the house had passed unanimous resolutions for the formation of new provinces, so the speaker should immediately send two members of the house to represent the Punjab on the commission for the formation of new provinces.
Law Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan was absent during the debate, but speaking to reporters at the assembly steps, said that the PPP’s proposal was a political stunt meant to gain the party votes in southern Punjab in the upcoming general elections.
He said that when he was still a member of the Punjab Assembly, Governor Makhdoom Ahmed Mehmood had presented the resolution for the restoration of Bahawalpur. He has deviated from his earlier stance by backing the PPP proposal for the formation of a single southern province, the minister said.
The 44th assembly session, requisitioned by the opposition, began at 5.08pm on Monday. Agriculture Minister Ahmad Ali Aulakh answered members’ queries regarding the Agriculture Department. The house also passed a resolution in favour of democracy before proceedings were prorogued indefinitely.
“The house supports the continuity of democracy and democratic institutions. The Constitution supports rule of law and the house expresses full confidence in the Election Commission of Pakistan. The house supports the politicians’ stand regarding elections on time and vows that any conspiracy against democracy will be foiled,” stated the resolution.
Samina Khawar Hayat of the PML-Q was the only member to object to the resolution, saying she did not have full confidence in four of the ECP members.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 22nd, 2013.