ISLAMABAD, Jan 23: A member of the controversial parliamentary commission on new provinces disclosed on Wednesday that a consensus had been evolved on the creation of a new province in Punjab.

“There is almost consensus among members of the commission that one province with the name of Janoobi Punjab comprising Multan, Bahawalpur and D.G. Khan divisions should be carved out from Punjab with Bahawalpur as its capital,” PML-Q Senator Kamil Ali Agha told Dawn after a meeting of the commission.

He, however, said that a final decision about the name of the proposed province and its capital would be taken after a meeting of the commission on Thursday to which all lawmakers belonging to the south Punjab areas had been invited.

Mr Agha said PML-Q would ask the commission to include in the new province Mianwali and Bhakkar districts and the areas where Seraiki-speaking people were in a majority.

He said PML-Q had decided to make this demand after a meeting of its parliamentary group discussed the issue in Islamabad on Wednesday.

When contacted, Law Minister Farooq H. Naek confirmed that his ministry had handed over to the commission a draft of the amendment bill seeking creation of a new province with the name of ‘Janoobi Punjab’.

Sources in the PPP told Dawn that the government wanted to present the commission’s report during the ongoing sessions of the National Assembly and the Senate.

The PML-N has been boycotting the commission’s proceedings and has already declared that it will not accept recommendations of the commission. It accused the PPP of bulldozing the parliamentary process required for the creation of new provinces only to gain political advantage in the next elections.

Briefing reporters after presiding over the in-camera meeting of the commission, its chairman Farhatullah Babar said all lawmakers representing southern Punjab had been invited to Thursday’s meeting to suggest name and capital of the new province.

Mr Babar said the commission would also seek opinion of legislators from Multan, Bahawalpur and D.G. Khan divisions about geographical boundaries of the proposed province.

Another member of the commission, Dr Farooq Sattar of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, told reporters that the draft amendment bill was being given final touches.

He urged all political parties to show maturity and unity on the issue keeping in mind the sufferings of the people of south Punjab.

PPP’s Abdul Qadir Gilani, the son of former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, criticised the PML-N for boycotting the commission’s proceedings. “If the Punjab Assembly is sincere, the new province can be created in one month,” he said.

“The commission is working and people themselves will judge who is playing what role.”

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