ISLAMABAD: After keeping the issue of new provinces’ creation in cold storage during its five-year rule in the country, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has now submitted a constitutional amendment bill to the National Assembly, seeking creation of Bahawalpur and south Punjab provinces.
This was announced by PML-N leaders Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Ahsan Iqbal and Marriyum Aurangzeb during a news conference at the National Press Club here on Monday.
Mr Iqbal stated that the PML-N had submitted the bill in line with its manifesto and in the light of the already passed resolution by the Punjab Assembly in May 2012.
Mr Iqbal, who is also one of the movers of the bill, explained that the new Bahawalpur province would consist of the current administrative Bahawalpur division whereas the south Punjab province would comprise current divisions of Dera Ghazi Khan and Multan.
Besides Mr Iqbal, other signatories of the bill are Rana Tanveer, Rana Sanaullah Khan and Abdur Rahman Kanju.
Leaders say party has submitted constitutional amendment bill to National Assembly for the purpose
The bill seeks amendment to Article 1 of the Constitution, suggesting to add the names of “Janubi (south) Punjab” and “Bahawalpur” provinces to the existing Balochistan, Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Sindh.
The bill also seeks amendment to Article 51 of the Constitution proposing that after the creation of both these provinces, Bahawalpur province would have 15 general and three reserved seats for women in the National Assembly. The provincial assembly of Bahawalpur province would have a total of 39 seats. Out of these 31 would be general seats, seven seats allocated to women and one allocated to religious minorities, says the draft of the bill.
Similarly, the bill proposes that south Punjab will be represented in the National Assembly by 38 members whereas the provincial assembly of this province will comprise 80 members — 64 general seats, 14 reserved seats for women and two reserved seats for religious minorities.
The bill says that members elected from the province of Punjab prior to the creation of the two new provinces, shall complete their respective terms of office. It proposes that the members of the National Assembly from the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas, elected in the general elections in 2018, and women elected on reserved seats from Punjab to the National Assembly shall continue till dissolution of the present National Assembly.
The bill also seeks amendment to Article 154 of the Constitution so that a fresh National Commission for Provinces be established to decide the boundaries and other important matters related to the provinces.
The bill has also proposed an amendment to Article 175A of the Constitution to provide for principal seats for the Supreme Court and high courts for these provinces.
“The high court for Bahawalpur shall have its principal seat at Bahawalpur, and the high court for Janubi Punjab shall have its principal seat at Multan,” says the draft of the bill.
Mr Iqbal said the people of Bahawalpur had been demanding restoration of their province for a long time and they had rendered great sacrifices for this cause. He said the PML-N had submitted the bill to fulfil its promise with the people of Bahawalpur and south Punjab.
He alleged that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) had used the south Punjab card in the elections and now it was not sincere in creating the new province. He said the PTI exploited the sentiments of the people of south Punjab and consigned their demands to the trash can.
Mr Iqbal said the PML-N would support the government unconditionally if it sincerely planned to create the two promised provinces and take up their bill in the upcoming NA session.
The PML-N leaders faced some harsh questions from reporters who asked them to explain as to what steps the PML-N government had taken for the development of south Punjab province during its rule.
Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi advised one of the reporters to visit areas in south Punjab and see development there. However, Mr Iqbal stated that for the first time the people of south Punjab got a share from the resources of the Punjab province according to their population.
He also claimed that in the past 10 years, the highest number of universities and educational institutions, including Danish schools, was set up in southern parts of Punjab. He also claimed improvement in the infrastructure of a number of cities, including Bahawalpur, Vehari and Dera Ghazi Khan.
In reply to a question, Mr Iqbal said the PML-N would definitely submit a bill regarding creation of Hazara province in KP, once the PTI government managed to get a resolution in this regard passed from the provincial assembly. He said that under the Constitution, a provincial assembly’s resolution was a must for carving a new province.
Earlier, Mr Abbasi lashed out at the government’s economic policies and alleged that the government had brought down the growth rate from 5.8 per cent to less than four per cent.
He said it was the first government which presented a finance bill and then ran away from the parliament. He regretted that the government prorogued the assembly session without allowing a debate on the finance bill.
According to the sources in the PML-N, opposition members have already submitted a requisition notice to the NA Secretariat for convening the assembly session for a debate on the finance bill.
Published in Dawn, January 29th, 2019