All eyes will be on Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal and his decision on whether or not to allow two resolutions for separate provinces in southern Punjab to be tabled when the Punjab Assembly meets today.
Sources told The Express Tribune that Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan and Iqbal discussed the matter on Wednesday. An official in the Punjab Assembly Secretariat said that the speaker had not made a decision as of Wednesday evening on whether to allow them to be tabled in the session.
If the speaker rejects the resolutions, the secretariat must issue a notification to this effect, and if he allows it, the secretariat must make them a part of the official agenda for the session. The secretariat issued a handout of the business of the session on Thursday that included a question hour about the Health Department, various call attention notices and discussion about the financial affairs of the Punjab government, but no resolutions.
The opposition Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid requisitioned the session, which starts today at 10am, to discuss law and order and finance. PML-Q Parliamentary Party Leader Chaudhry Zaheeruddin Khan later submitted a resolution calling for the formation of a new province of South Punjab, and PML-Zia leader Chaudhry Shahid Anjum a resolution for the restoration of the provincial status of Bahawalpur, for addition to the agenda.
Sources in the PML-Nawaz said that under the strategy decided by the party, the speaker would not bring up the resolutions at all. If he were pressed to by the opposition parties, he would cite Sub-section 4 of Article 239 of the Constitution and rule that resolutions for the formation of new provinces or alteration of provincial boundaries were a concern for the federal legislature, as any such actions would require a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly and Senate.
The matter was also discussed at a PML-N parliamentary party meeting headed by Sanaullah and Senior Adviser to the Chief Minister Sirdar Zulfiqar Khan Khosa, they sources said. They told their colleagues that the party was not opposed to new provinces, but believed that there should be a broader basis for their formation. It also needed to be decided if the new South Punjab province would have its capital at Multan or Bahawalpur. The sources said that Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had been invited to a meeting with Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani in Islamabad on the subject of new provinces on Wednesday night, but he would return in time to attend the assembly session on Thursday.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 11th, 2011.