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Commission on provinces to continue its work

September 11, 2012


ISLAMABAD, Sept 10: The government has finally given a go-ahead to the controversial Parliamentary Commission on Creation of New Provinces in Punjab to continue its work without further waiting for the members of the opposition PML-N, Dawn has learnt.

The third meeting of the commission, headed by PPP’s Senator and Presidential Spokesman Farhatullah Babar, which was postponed on August 30 without giving any reason, will now be held on Tuesday for which the National Assembly Secretariat issued notices to the members on Monday.

According to the agenda of the meeting, a copy of which is available with Dawn, Law Minister Farooq Naek will brief the commission on legal and constitutional matters relating to creation of new provinces in accordance with resolutions adopted by the National Assembly and the Punjab assembly.

At the last meeting of the commission on August 29, the members had decided to hold in-camera sessions and to invite all stakeholders to seek their viewpoint before finalising its recommendations. The same day, the Punjab Assembly through a resolution, rejected the formation of the commission and demanded a new national commission with a mandate to decide parameters for carving out new provinces all over the country on administrative ground.

The next meeting of the commission was scheduled for August 31, but it was cancelled on Aug 30 evening amid reports that the government had decided to make another bid to persuade the PML-N, which is ruling Punjab, to end its boycott of the commission. Mr Babar claimed that the postponement had nothing to do with the PML-N’s opposition or the Punjab Assembly resolution, stating that the meeting had been “postponed” because “some of the members and perhaps the law minister would not be able to attend the meeting”.

On the other hand, PPP sources said, the party’s chief whip and federal minister Syed Khurhsid Shah contacted the PML-N through backdoor channels but failed to persuade it to end its boycott.

A PPP delegation headed by Mr Shah met PML-N’s Ishaq Dar and Khawaja Asif last week and handed over a new draft of the accountability law in an effort to reach consensus on the much-delayed bill.

Later, talking to reporters, the leaders of both the parties claimed that they had discussed only the proposed accountability law and that no other issue, including the future caretaker set-up and commission on new provinces, had come under discussion.

The commission became controversial since its inception when the PML-N objected to its composition as well as its focus only on one province and decided to boycott its proceedings.

The PML-N questions the presence of representatives of parties based outside the province — the MQM, the JUI-F and ANP — in the Punjab-specific panel, while it also calls for creation of new federating units, like Hazara in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Bahawalpur which should be included in the terms of reference.

The PML-N is of the opinion that after rejection of the commission by the Punjab assembly through a resolution, there has been no “legal and moral justification” for the government to continue its meetings.

The PML-N believes that the commission has no constitutional or legal standing and it has been formed by the PPP only as a ploy to achieve some political objectives before the next general elections.