What started as MQM and JUI-F members drawing the legislature’s attention to a ‘burning Karachi’ and demanding a briefing from the federal government, ended with PML-N and PML-Q members tearing up the report of the commission for new provinces in Punjab and walking out.
Opposition in the eventful session of the National Assembly on Friday, lasting only 30 minutes, caused an uproar the moment Member of the National Assembly Arif Aziz Sheikh submitted the parliamentary commission on new provinces’ report.
“Mianwali can never be included in South Punjab. We reject this report. This report is in violation of Punjab Assembly’s resolutions. We reject it,” said PML-N MNA Humair Hayat Rokhri, before tearing the report into pieces.
“We (Mianwali) are located in the province’s north western part,” Rokhri claimed, before walking out in protest and saying the report would be rejected in the Punjab Assembly.
“This act is a violation of the rules of the house,” was MNA Nadeem Afzal Chan’s reaction to Rokhri ripping up the report. Chan was conducting the proceedings in place of the National Assembly speaker.
Besides Rokhri, Chan only allowed PML-N MNA Zafar Ali Shah to speak, who also rejected the report.
Sardar Shah Jahan of PML-Q and Laiq Muhammad Khan of JUI-F from Hazara Division, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) joined Rokhri and other PML-N MNAs in protest against the report for leaving out their region and staged a walkout. Jahan said his party colleague Kamil Ali Agha had already given his ‘note of reservation’ over the commission’s inability to discuss the creation of a Hazara province in K-P.
Munir Orakzai from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) also walked out. “The report in its contents nowhere mentions Fata as a prospective new province. All Fata members would reject this report,” Orakzai claimed.
Following the NA session, Leader of the Opposition, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, submitted a privilege motion in the assembly secretariat against the commission’s report.
The motion, signed by 90 PML-N MNAs, maintained that it breached the privilege of the house as it violated their parliamentary prerogative of representation in the commission. The commission was constituted against the presidential reference only by the NA Speaker and did not include the members who were stakeholders, it added.
“The commission should have included experts with knowhow on the matters of provinces’ division, besides those who were directly the stakeholders like people from central and north Punjab,” PML-N MNA-N Anusha Rehman told The Express Tribune.
PML-Q’s note of reservation
A member of the commission, PML-Q Senator Kamil Ali Agha signed the report with his note of reservation, in which he maintained that the commission failed to consider his party’s demand to acquire a mandate for the creation of Hazara province.
“Our resolution of the Hazara province was pending in the National Assembly and I repeatedly asked the commission to acquire necessary powers from the prime minister and the president to forward the resolution to the K-P Assembly for further action but it was not done,” Agha stated in his note.
ANP’s note of reservation
Awami National Party’s Senator Haji Mohammad Adeel maintained in his note that members of the Punjab Assembly, particularly those from the three districts of Bahawalpur, Mianwali and Bhakkar should have been invited to express their views on the issue.
He added that the mandate of the commission was clear and was limited only to the division of Punjab. “Any other suggestion about the division of any other province was clearly beyond its mandate,” he said.
The commission report presented three models for the division of Punjab.
However, it suggested that the “province may comprise three existing divisions of Punjab namely Multan, Bahawalpur and Dera Ghazi Khan divisions and the two districts of Mianwali and Bahawalpur.”
The reason to include the two districts was that various factors, including feelings of deprivation, under-development, geographical contiguity, administrative needs, social homogeneity and water resources laid the basis for their inclusion in the proposed province.
Distribution of resources
The commission noted that constitutional provisions existed to determine the distribution of resources between the provinces. These were Articles 153, 154 and 155 relating to the Council of Common Interest (CCI) which was further strengthened by the 18th Constitutional Amendment.
It said that the Water Accord, 1991 may have to be revised to provide for the share of the new province of Bahawalpur South Punjab. “Article 155 (1) of the Constitution further provides the mechanism for addressing disputes in water issues.”
Articles 156 and 160 were quoted as dealing with economic and financial matters arising from carving up Punjab.
Walkouts over Karachi, Balochistan
Earlier, some PML-N and JUI-F members walked out of the NA session over the continuing violence in Karachi and governor’s rule in Balochistan.
MNAs Birjees Tahir and Asia Nasir demanded that Interior Minister Rehman Malik be summoned before the house for a briefing on the steps being taken by the government to improve the city’s law and order situation.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 2nd, 2013.