Why divide Punjab?

There are more Seraiki-speaking people in Sindh than Punjab - maybe the wrong province is being split.

Ali Thair January 10, 2012
"Why not create a Seraiki province in Sindh?"

This is my cardinal question to all those who want Punjab to be divided.

The MQM's recent call for new provinces to be carved out in Pakistan has irked me a great deal. To explain my sentiment, here's some background on the province of Punjab.  Many different dialects are spoken in this province, some of which include Majhi, Jhangochi, Pothohari, Saraiki, Jatki, Hindko, Chhachhi, Doabi, and Derewali.

The MQM has submitted a bill to the National Assembly calling for Punjab's division on linguistic basis. What they don't understand, perhaps, is that Seraiki is a just dialect of Punjabi and not a different language.

Moreover, the Seraiki population in Punjab is 17%, while 40% of Sindh's population is Seraiki. Given these statistics, where should a Seraiki province first be made, Punjab or Sindh?

In the 1990's, the MQM had a muhajir province in their manifesto - why aren't they making a muhajir province in Sindh now? Why are they bent on breaking up other provinces? The population of Karachi has almost exceeded 20 million. This is twice the size of the Seraiki population in Punjab. Logically speaking, the top priority should be to make Karachi a province, not only because the law and order situation is worsening, but also because it is the financial capital of the country.

In addition to this, making Karachi a separate province can be justified on all grounds - ethnic, linguistic, and administrative. The MQM also holds the majority of seats in Karachi. Then why are they interested in dividing Punjab first, where they still don't even have any mandate of the vote? Haven't Punjabis already divided their motherland to become a part of the federation of Pakistan?

Another vocal supporter of the division of Punjab and Balochistan was the ANP. They wanted a Seraiki province in Punjab and a Pukhtoon province in Balochistan, however now they have changed their stance and are against the idea of division altogether.

Confusing? Well, that's Pakistani politics for you.

Why, though, has the ANP changed its stance?

My guess is that this is primarily because the MQM has filed a bill for the Hazara province to be stamped in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and calls have also come up for Malakand to be established as a province. The ANP is, thus, worried that it will have less land to govern if two more provinces are carved out of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Isn't it a violation of the constitution of Pakistan to take these bills to the National Assembly when the constitution clearly states that the division or demarcation of provinces will be decided by the provincial assemblies? Will it not weaken the federation further, when the centre decides on the division of federating units, which are semi-autonomous as declared by our constitution?

If  Pakistan carves out four more provinces out of all the federating units, will the treasury be able to bear the expenses of the offices of 16 chief ministers, governors, secretariats, chief secretaries, provincial secretaries, police chiefs, and many others? The creation of new provinces will not contribute towards provincial or federal revenue, in fact it will add an extra financial burden on the nation that already spends a large amount of its revenue on the defense budget.

However, if only the Seraiki province is created out of Punjab, it will lead to unequal representation in the Senate, and Punjab will have double the number of senators as opposed to other federating units. This will create a renewed sense of insecurity in the smaller federating units, who already complain about getting unequal representation in the National Assembly and that Punjab is dominating the national affairs.

The creation of new provinces will exacerbate these problems. They will bring political turmoil to a society that is already going through social polarisation.
Ali Thair A law student, studying at Szabist (Karachi) in the University of London International LLB Program. He tweets @AliTahirArain
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