ISLAMABAD, Jan 6: The controversial parliamentary commission on new provinces meets here on Monday after a gap of almost two weeks to discuss various proposals it has received from experts and stakeholders on the issue of creating one or more federating units in Punjab.
The meeting of the Parliamentary Commission on New Provinces in Punjab headed by PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar is taking place only three days before the expiry of another 30-day period within which it is required to present to the National Assembly its proposals on the matter.
The commission has also sought proposals from all stakeholders as well as the general public on the issue of creating one or more provinces in Punjab.
At its last meeting on Dec 24, Pakistan Seraiki Party chief Taj Mohammad Langah had presented before the commission voluminous sets of documents in support of his demand for a new province with the name of ‘Seraikistan’ or ‘Seraiki’ comprising 23 districts — 21 in Punjab and two in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He called for including Tank and Dera Ismail Khan — two Seraiki-speaking districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – in the proposed new province. Earlier on Dec 18, former information minister Mohammad Ali Durrani had given a detailed presentation to the commission in support of the restoration of Bahawalpur province, besides creation of a Seraiki province comprising other areas in the region.
The commission has also listened to the views of some other stakeholders, including Ghazanfar Mehdi, Masroor Baig, Iqbal Pitafi and Ashiq Khan Buzdar – all prominent figures from south Punjab.
Sources said the commission was expected to hear arguments of some other experts and stakeholders on Monday before going into a session for preparing its recommendations.
The 30-day period within which the commission formed by Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza in August last year was required to complete its task expired on Sept 27. However, Senator Babar said at the time the law ministry officials had informed the commission that the period would start from the day they finalised its rules of business. Since the commission started its regular meetings after finalising its rules of business and terms of reference on Dec 10, it is now required to complete its task by Jan 10.
Briefing reporters after a meeting of the commission, Mr Babar, who is also spokesman for President Asif Ali Zardari, had refused to give any timeframe for completing the commission’s task and indicated that it could seek extension from the National Assembly, if needed.
The sources told Dawn on Sunday that the PPP leadership wanted the commission to submit its report to the National Assembly by the end of this month so that the party could exploit it during its election campaign.
The commission became controversial right after its inception as the main opposition PML-N objected to its composition as well as its focus on one province and decided to boycott its proceedings.
The 14-member commission was formed by the NA speaker on Aug 16 in pursuance of a message from President Asif Zardari and authorisation by the assembly on July 11.
Her announcement named 12 members only, drawn from both houses of parliament. It said two members would be nominated by the speaker of the Punjab Assembly. The provincial assembly’s speaker, who belongs to the PML-N, refused to nominate members in line with his party’s policy, thus putting a question mark on the proceedings of the commission which according to legal experts is incomplete and can’t function.
The commission has the mandate to look into the issues relating to the 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 for minorities and women.