PML-N shelves issue of new provinces

Updated 13 Aug 2013

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Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Pervez Rashid. — File photo
Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Pervez Rashid. — File photo

ISLAMABAD: The PML-N government has decided to shelve the issue of creating new provinces in the country for at least two years, it is learnt.

But the opposition PPP, which had got the bill for creation of a new south Punjab province passed from the Senate earlier this year, has vowed to continue to press the issue by raising it in parliament and at other forums.

Background interviews with a number of PML-N members reveal that the reason for avoiding the sensitive issue is the party’s weak representation in the Senate. PML-N plans to take up the issue after the March 2015 Senate elections when the party is expected to acquire a comfortable position in the upper house of parliament.

Talking to Dawn, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Pervez Rashid said PML-N was committed to working towards the creation of new provinces as it was part of its election manifesto but right now the issue was not on its priority list because the government was busy tackling other matters of national importance.

The minister said the government believes that issues like terrorism, energy crisis and revival of economy requires greater attention than any other matter at the moment.

He pointed out that though PML-N had a comfortable majority in the National Assembly and the provincial assembly of Punjab, it was not in a position to carry out constitutional amendments on its own in the Senate.

Mr Rashid said PML-N would definitely take up the issue after acquiring majority in the Senate in March 2015.

On the other hand, PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar said the government appeared to be non-committal on the issue.

The senator said a commission on the matter had worked hard and its efforts should not be ignored. He said if PML-N, which had boycotted the proceedings of the commission, had any objections to the draft of the bill seeking creation of new province which had been passed by the Senate it could suggest changes to it.

He said PPP was ready to cooperate with PML-N if it took any initiative on the issue.

The Senate passed the 24th Constitution Amendment Bill seeking creation of the “Bahawalpur Janoobi Punjab” province on March 6, just 10 days before the expiry of the term of the PPP-led coalition government amid opposition’s boycott.

The bill proposing Bahawalpur as the capital of the new province was supported by the PML-Q, Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Awami National Party and Balochistan National Party-Awami besides some independents.