The Lahore High Court observed on Friday that the incumbent assemblies had no mandate to create new provinces. The court was hearing petitions questioning the legal status of a parliamentary commission on new provinces.
Justice Khalid Mahmood Khan pointed out that political parties represented in the parliament had not contested the previous election with the manifesto of new provinces. “The parties should contest the upcoming elections with their proposals for new provinces,” the judge said.
The judge said the bid for creation of new provinces as a general election approached had raised doubts regarding the motivation of the political parties involved.
Lead counsel for the petitioners, Advocate Azhar Siddique, argued that neither the Constitution nor Rules of Business allowed the National Assembly speaker to form a commission to deliberate creation of new provinces.
The counsel said people in Mianwali had been observing strikes to protest the recommendations of the “illegal” parliamentary commission. He said the situation might get worse if the commission was not suspended.
Justice Khan asked a deputy attorney general to produce the notification regarding the formation of the parliamentary commission. The law officer could not produce the notification. He said authorities in Islamabad had been contacted but nothing had come forth so far. He sought more time to produce the notification.
The judge observed that the court could not issue a stay order till it knew who had issued the notification using which law.
He adjourned the hearing till Monday (February 4) and directed the deputy attorney general to come up with the notification, the recommendations and the terms of references of the Parliamentary Commission.
Earlier, the petitioners’ counsel had reiterated that the president’s spokesman and PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar was heading the commission and that the majority party in the Punjab had boycotted it. He said both the ANP and the MQM, represented on the commission, had no representation in the Punjab at any level.
The counsel pointed out that Punjab Assembly had passed two resolutions on the matter and demanded the restoration of Bahawalpur province. He said Senator Babar had denied the existence of a Bahawalpur province in the past.
Advocate Siddique argued that the incumbent leaders had no mandate for creating a new province. He reiterated that Article 239 of the Constitution empowered the Parliament to change the boundaries of provinces.
He said that Mianwali was a lot closer to Lahore than Multan but some political parties were recommending including Mianwali in the new province to gain political mileage.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 2nd, 2013.