In an apparent attempt to fulfill the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI)'s promise for the creation of a new province comprising the southern part of Punjab, a PTI lawmaker newly elected to the Punjab Assembly has submitted a resolution seeking the House recommend that the federal government initiate the process for the creation of a Southern Punjab province.
"This House strongly recommends to the federal government [that it] initiate the process of creation of Southern Punjab [province] immediately," reads the resolution submitted by MPA Mohammad Mohsin Leghari.
The PTI had included the formation of a new province in south Punjab to their election manifesto in May this year while absorbing a political party calling itself the Junoobi Punjab Suba Mahaz (JPSM; the South Punjab Province Front).
The JPSM mainly comprised estranged leaders of the PML-N who had formed the platform for the single-point agenda of carving a new province from the southern parts of Punjab.
Under the PTI-JPSM deal, the PTI was to set in motion the procedures to create a new province in south Punjab within 100 days if it formed the government.
Interestingly, the PTI's bitter opponents — the PPP and the PML-N — had also been vocal in their support for a new province in south Punjab.
During electioneering for the 2018 polls, PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif and PTI's Vice-Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi had announced their support for the new province on the same day.
Addressing a press conference on April 15, Qureshi had said that the PTI endorsed the demand for the creation of a southern Punjab province “not for linguistic reasons but on administrative grounds to mitigate the miseries and sense of deprivation being faced by some 35 million people living in Bahawalpur, Multan and Dera Ghazi Khan divisions”.
Similarly, Shahbaz Sharif, while talking to journalists, had gone a step further and said that his party had committed to the cause of reviving the Bahawalpur province as well as creating a South Punjab province.
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had also said in April that his party had raised the issue of the establishment of a south Punjab province.
“We will make a separate province (of south Punjab) and end the deprivation of this belt if you people support us,” he had told a political gathering in Multan.
He had also raised the slogan, ‘Ghinson, Ghinson, Sooba Ghinson’ (we will get the (new) province), in front of a cheering crowd.
According to Article 239 of the Constitution, the process of creating new provinces requires a two-thirds majority in separate votes in the two houses of parliament and then a further two-thirds majority in the provincial assembly of the affected province.
Given the current party position of arch-rival parties in the parliament, as well as in the Punjab Assembly, the creation of the province has become a complex issue. The PML-N and the PPP, both a part of the opposition in Punjab and the Centre, will not easily let the PTI have the credit of a new province despite the fact that both of the parties had already endorsed the cause of a new province in south Punjab.