The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), despite its continued call for the Seraiki province, has not yet sought the support of PML-N – without which the division of Punjab is unlikely.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz is the most powerful party in Punjab and the Seraiki province cannot come into being unless a resolution is passed by the Punjab Assembly with a two-thirds majority.
PML-N’s deputy secretary information Khurram Dastagir said, “the ruling party has never asked us for support. It is a slogan to entice the people of Southern Punjab since they (PPP) know the creation of the province is not feasible.”
He added that recent statements by President Asif Ali Zardari were a “reflection of cynical power play.”
The constitution states “a bill to amend the Constitution which would have the effect of altering the limits of a province shall not be presented to the President for assent unless it has been passed by the provincial assembly of that province by votes of not less than two-thirds of its total membership.”
Renowned lawyer Salman Akram Raja agrees that new provinces cannot be created unless the provincial assembly passes a resolution with a two-thirds majority. He, however, is of the opinion that the creation of new provinces should not necessarily be initiated by the provincial assembly.
“The process can also be initiated from the National Assembly,” Raja said while referring to Article 239 of the constitution. “The provincial assembly has to vote, but it is not specified whether that is done before or after the resolution is passed in the National Assembly,” Raja argued.
Senator Raza Rabbani, however, has snubbed even the idea of a ‘debate’ on the issue in the National Assembly, stating categorically that the exercise is unconstitutional. “[The resolution] can only be brought before the National Assembly once it is passed by the provincial assembly with a two-thirds majority.”
He is the only critic of his party’s approach towards the creation of new provinces.
Earlier in January, when the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) had demanded the creation of a Hazara province in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, religious affairs minister Khursheed Shah proposed that two bills (for Seraiki and Hazara provinces) be moved.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 19th, 2012.