ISLAMABAD, Aug 28: PPP Senator and Presidency’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar was unanimously elected chairman of the controversial Parliamentary Commission on Creation of New Provinces in Punjab which held its fist meeting on Tuesday despite a boycott by its PML-N members.Talking to reporters outside the Parliament House after his election, Mr Babar requested the PML-N to end its boycott of the commission. He announced that the commission would meet again on Wednesday to frame its rules of business and prepare the terms of reference.
Mr Babar’s name for the chairmanship was proposed by PPP’s Jamshed Dasti and seconded by PML-Q’s Kamil Ali Agha and other members.
National Assembly’s Secretary Karamat Hussain Niazi presided over the meeting.
Mr Babar assured the members that he would try to come up to their expectations and make proceedings of the commission “purposeful and result-oriented” with their support.
“Two decisions were taken in today’s session,” Mr Babar told reporters. It was decided that the commission would request the PML-N members to participate in the commission’s proceedings so that the resolutions adopted by the National Assembly and Punjab Assembly could be taken forward.
He said the commission also decided to meet again on Wednesday “for framing draft rules and adopting them to increase our efficiency, as is the need for all commissions and committees”.
Speaking on the occasion, MQM’s Farooq Sattar said the functioning of the commission was a “historic opportunity” that should not be wasted. He also asked the PML-N to review its decision of boycotting the commission which had been tasked to submit its report to the assembly within a month. He said everyone should work for removing hurdles in the creation of the South Punjab province.
The MQM leader advised the PML-N members to express their grievances, if any, before the commission and if they wanted restoration of Bahawalpur province along with the creation of South Punjab province they could discuss it in the commission.
Later talking to Dawn, Mr Babar said the members would decide whether the commission’s meetings should be held in camera or should be open to media. He refused to say anything more about PML-N’s boycott because he said he would avoid controversial matters since he was now the chairman of the commission. He also refused to say anything when asked how the commission would function when it was still incomplete.
Those who attended the meeting were Syeda Sughra Imam, Arif Aziz Sheikh, Jamshed Dasti and Syed Ali Musa Gilani of the PPP, Haji Mohammad Adeel of ANP, Kamil Ali Agha of PML-Q, Dr Farooq Sattar of MQM and Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri of JUI-F. PPP’s chief whip and Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Syed Khurshid Ahmed Shah attended the meeting for a brief period.
When the commission members were electing their chairman, Opposition Leader in the National Assembly and PML-N stalwart Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan was talking to reporters at the spacious Punjab House. He reiterated his party’s stance and rejected the formation of the commission in the present form. He termed it a political ploy of the PPP to hoodwink the people just before the general elections.
The PML-N leader called it “Zardari commission” and alleged that the PPP and its allies were not sincere about new provinces. He called for formation of a national commission on new provinces on the pattern of such a body formed in India. He rejected the election of Mr Babar as chairman of the commission and said the PML-N would accept only a national commission.
The 14-member commission was formed by National Assembly Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza on Aug 16 on the basis of a message from President Asif Ali Zardari and authorisation by the assembly on July 11.
She announced the names of only 12 members, drawn from the two houses of parliament, and said two members would be nominated by the speaker of the Punjab Assembly. The speaker of the provincial assembly, who belongs to the PML-N, has not yet nominated the members.
A day after the announcement of the commission, Chaudhry Nisar accused the speaker of unilaterally nominating PML-N legislators without consulting the party leadership.
The commission has the mandate to look into issues relating to fair distribution of economic and financial resources, demarcation, allocation/readjustment of seats in the National Assembly, Senate and the provincial assembly concerned and allocation of seats in the new province on the basis of population, including seats of minorities and women and other constitutional, legal and administrative matters.
The PML-N wants more representation in the commission, saying if the proposed commission was meant only for the creation of two new provinces within Punjab, the PML-N being the single largest party in the province must have 50 per cent representation in it. It also has objections to the inclusion of the ANP, MQM and JUI-F in the commission, saying they have no representation in Punjab.