In a surprising move that appears to contradict his party’s policies, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif on Saturday said he supports the creation of both a Bahawalpur and a Seraiki province in southern Punjab.
The chief minister made these comments while inaugurating a flyover in Bahawalpur. The Punjab government has come under fire in recent weeks after it was revealed that the province spends close to 40% of its development budget on Lahore.
Sharif’s visit to Bahawalpur appears to be an attempt to address the inequities in development spending, which have been cited by most of the proponents of a new province.
The chief minister’s announcement comes on a day when the joint opposition in the Punjab Assembly submitted a resolution in the assembly secretariat seeking the formation of the South Punjab province for ‘administrative’ reasons.
A resolution, in this regard, was earlier submitted on August 5 by Pakistan Muslim League Quaid (PML-Q). However, the Punjab Assembly speaker reserved the ruling and avoided giving a clear stance about the acceptance or rejection of the resolution. According to the rules of procedure of the provincial legislature, if a session prorogues a resolution, all resolutions for that session will lapse.
A copy of the resolution submitted on Saturday states that this time proponents have carefully drafted the resolution while keeping in view the Rules of Procedures of the Punjab Assembly 1997. It states that the “house demands the federal government to take the necessary steps in terms of amendment in the constitution of Pakistan in order to give a separate provincial status to South Punjab on administrative basis”.
Secretariat officials told The Express Tribune that this time the opposition has adopted all legal requirements which would not give the treasury benches or the speaker a chance to subject it to legal interpretation, instead of entertaining it. “Another thing the opposition was careful of while submitting the resolution was the content,” a legal official of the assembly told The Express Tribune. He said the resolution submitted earlier used derogatory words against the Punjab government and included many arguments making the status of resolution doubtful.
He said according to Punjab Assembly’s Rule 116, resolutions shall be clearly and precisely expressed. The official said PML-Q’s earlier resolution did not fall under these rules. He further said that earlier, the opposition appealed to the Punjab government, directly involving them in an issue that is more a federal matter. This time, he added, the opposition has demanded the federal government to amend the constitution for South Punjab province through the “house” directly.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 14th, 2011.