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Commission on new provinces meets today

December 24, 2012

ISLAMABAD, Dec 23: Pakistan Seraiki Party (PSP) chairman Taj Muhammad Langah is among the experts and stakeholders who will be appearing before the Parliamentary Commission on Creation of New Provinces in Punjab on Monday (today) to present their viewpoints on the proposed division of the province, Dawn has learnt.

Mr Langah is a strong supporter of the creation of Seraiki province comprising all the Seraiki-speaking areas of the country and has been leading the campaign for such a federating unit for more than 40 years.

Last week, former information minister Muhammad Ali Durrani had given a detailed presentation before the controversial commission headed by PPP Senator Farhatullah Khan Babar in support of the restoration of the Bahawalpur province, besides creation of Seraiki province comprising other areas of the region.

Mr Langah is considered to be an opponent of the idea of creation of Bahawalpur province and wants its inclusion in the province of Seraikistan. Besides the Seraiki-speaking areas of south Punjab, the PSP chairman reportedly wants the merger of Dera Ismail Khan and Tank divisions of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Khairpur district of Sindh into the proposed Seraiki province.

At the last meeting, in addition to Mr Durrani the commission had called Ghazanfar Mehdi, Masroor Baig, Iqbal Pitafi and Ashiq Khan Buzdar, all prominent figures from south Punjab. The commission has again invited Mr Buzdar on Monday to clarify some of the points he had raised at the last meeting, sources said.

The commission formed by National Assembly Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza in August was required to complete its job of submitting recommendations to the house within 30 days, but it started its regular sessions on December 10 due to some technical and legal hitches.

The chairman of the commission, Farhatullah Babar, however, argues that the 30-day period will start from the day they finalise the rules of business. Since the commission finalised its rules on Dec 10, it is now required to complete its task by January 10, 2013.

The parliamentary commission had also sought “written proposals” from all stakeholders and even the general public on the issue of the creation of new provinces in Punjab.

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

The 14-member commission was formed by the speaker on Aug 16 in pursuance of the message received from President Asif Zardari and authorisation by the assembly on July 11.

Her announcement named 12 members only, drawn from the two houses of parliament, and said two members would be nominated by the speaker of the Punjab Assembly. The speaker of the provincial assembly, who belongs to the opposition PML-N, later refused to nominate the members in line with party policy, thus putting a question mark over the proceedings of the commission which, according to some legal experts, is incomplete and can’t function.

The commission has the mandate to look into the issues relating to the fair distribution of economic and financial resources, demarcation, allocation/readjustment of seats in the National Assembly, Senate and the concerned provincial assembly and allocation of seats in the new province on the basis of population, including seats for minorities and women, and other constitutional, legal and administrative matters.