Lahore High Court. — File photo

LAHORE, Feb 1: Hearing petitions questioning legal status of a parliamentary commission on new provinces, the Lahore High Court on Friday observed that the incumbent assemblies had no mandate to create new provinces.

Justice Khalid Mahmood Khan pointed out that the political parties sitting in the parliament had not contested the previous general election with manifestos of new provinces.

“The political parties should contest upcoming elections with a slogan of new provinces,” the judge remarked.

The judge further remarked that creation of new provinces by outgoing assemblies ahead of the general election also invited doubts on the intention of the political parties sitting in the parliament. He said there would be an anarchy even if the parliament being constitutionally empowered created new provinces without seeking the will of the local people.

The leading counsel for the petitioners, Advocate Azhar Siddique, argued that neither the Constitution nor rules of business allowed the National Assembly speaker to form a commission on new provinces’ subject. He said the inclusion of Mianwali district in the proposed ‘Bahawalpur Janoobi Punjab’ province was against the will of the local citizens.

The counsel said people in Mianwali had been observing strikes in protest against the recommendations of the ‘illegal’ parliamentary commission. He said the situation might get worse if the recommendations of the commission were not suspended.

Justice Khan asked a deputy attorney general to produce the notification about the formation of the commission. The law officer expressed his inability to get the notification. He said authorities in Islamabad were contacted in this regard but in vain. He sought more time to produce the notification.

The judge observed that the court could not issue a stay order until knowing under what law and by whom the notification was issued.

He adjourned hearing till Monday (Feb 4) and directed the deputy attorney general to come up with the notification, recommendations and terms of references of the parliamentary commission.

Earlier, the counsel in his arguments reiterated the president’s spokesman and PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar was heading the commission while major political party of Punjab had boycotted it. He said both the ANP and the MQM, part of the commission, had no representation in the Punjab province even at the union council level.

The counsel pointed out that the Punjab Assembly had passed two resolutions on the subject matter and demanded restoration of Bahawalpur province instead of creation of a new one.

He said commission head Senator Babar had denied the existence of Bahawalpur province in the past which suggested that the federal and provincial governments were exploiting the situation for political gains.

Advocate Siddique argued that the incumbent rulers had no mandate for the creation of a new province and such an act would amount to upset the administrative system of the country. He said Article 239 of the Constitution empowered the parliament only to change geographical limits of provinces.

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