LAHORE, Feb 26: The Pakistan People’s Party and Governor Makhdoom Ahmed Mahmood are making efforts to get the support of a dozen south Punjab MNAs of the PML-N for the proposed Bahawalpur Janoobi Punjab bill being tabled in the National Assembly shortly.
The PPP is going to first table the bill this week in the Senate where it has two-third majority. To acquire two-third majority in the National Assembly, the PPP and the governor have been tasked to contact the PML-N legislators, especially those belonging to the south, and convince them to vote for the bill.
“Governor Makhdoom Ahmed Mahmood had contacted me and sought my support for the proposed Bhawalpur Janoobi Punjab province. I told him had the PPP tabled the restoration of Bahawalpur province bill, I would have voted for it,” PML-N MNA from Bahawalpur Muhammad Baleegur Rehman told Dawn.
He said he asked the governor as to why he had deviated from his previous stance of supporting the restoration of Bahawalpur province.
“The PPP has been propagating that those who will not vote for the proposed province may not win. But the ground reality is otherwise, as the people of Bahawalpur are only interested in the restoration of their province,” Mr Rehman said.
Responding to a Dawn’s querry, Sheikh Tariq Rashid, a PML-N MNA from Multan, said: “I will vote for the proposed bill provided it does not include Bahawalpur. Bahawalpur province should be restored separately as the people in Multan are happy to have south Punjab sans Bahawalpur.”
Mr Rashid further said hardly two weeks were left of the PPP-led government and it was trying to cash in on this issue. “But let me tell them the people are very much aware and making Bahawalpur part of the south will not impress any one,” he said.
On the other hand, PPP’s south Punjab vice-president Haider Zaman Qureshi told Dawn that some PML-N MPs had given them an assurance to support the proposed bill in the National Assembly.
“As it will be very difficult to hold political ground in their constituencies in the south, the PML-N legislators cannot afford to oppose this bill,” he said adding Saifuddin Khosa, son of PML-N senior leader Zulfiqar Khosa of Dera Ghazi Khan, had joined the PPP citing PML-N’s opposition to the proposed province.
However, another PML-N MNA from Lodhran Akhtar Khan Kanju dispelled the impression that he or other PML-N MNAs faced threat of losing the coming polls.
“Had any of my voters requested me to support Bahawalpur Janoobi Punjab province, I would have certainly considered voting for it. But contrary to this, they oppose it. Unless the creation of a new province is genuinely worked out especially in terms of financial implications, this issue will remain political,” Mr Kanju said.
Though having good position in the Senate, the PPP is also persuading senators in opposition to vote for the proposed bill. “A PPP leader has requested me to vote for the new province bill but I have made him clear because the (PPP) move is not constitutional,” said Mohsin Leghari.
Mr Leghari, who was elected Senator in March last year as independent candidate, further said: “The Constitution as it stands today does not empower the parliament to create a new province, it merely empowers it to alter boundaries of a province, article 239(4) uses `alter’ and not create. Check the difference in meanings from Black's Law Dictionary.”
“I am proposing the empowerment of the parliament to `create’ and also alter. And also to empower the people in having a say in their future which is in the spirit of democracy. The people of Mianwali and Bhakkar have been protesting against their inclusion in the new proposed province. Youth in Dera Ghazi Khan and Rajanpur have been demanding joining Balochistan as the area is predominantly Baloch. Senator Hasil Bizinjo and I have submitted a resolution to consult the people of DG Khan and Rajanpur,” Leghari said.