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Idea of ‘twin capitals’ for new province discussed

January 24, 2013

PML-Q’s Kamil Ali Agha. — File Photo

ISLAMABAD: Legislators from three divisions of south Punjab, especially invited to a meeting of the controversial parliamentary commission on new provinces, discussed on Thursday the unique idea of having a new province with “twin capitals”.

After the commission’s in-camera meeting which was attended by over 12 legislators from Multan, Bahawalpur and Dera Ghazi Khan divisions, PML-Q's Kamil Ali aAgha told Dawn that it had almost been decided that the name of the proposed province would now be “Bahawalpur Janoobi Punjab” instead of the earlier agreed “Janoobi Punjab”.

Mr Agha, who had earlier claimed that there was a consensus in the commission that the capital of the new province would be Bahawalpur, said that following the discussion with the MNAs and senators belonging to the Seraiki region on Thursday, the commission might come up with the suggestion that the new province should have two capitals, both Bahawalpur and Multan.

Explaining the term “twin capitals”, Mr Agha said both the cities could share the secretariat offices, governor’s house, CM’s house and the provincial assembly. He claimed that his party’s proposals to include Bhakkar and Mianwali districts in the proposed province had also been accepted.

Briefing reporters after presiding over the meeting, the commission’s chairman Farhatullah Babar said that valuable suggestions had been received from the MNAs and senators regarding the name of the proposed province, its capital and geographical boundaries.

He categorically stated that “nothing is final so far” and the commission would meet again on Saturday. He said a draft of the amendment bill seeking creation of a new province was almost ready and it would be reviewed at the next meeting. Seven to eight articles of the Constitution would have to be amended for carving out a new province in Punjab, he added.

Earlier, a PPP MNA from Vehari, Mehmood Hayat Khan alias Tochi Khan, walked out of the meeting in protest against non-representation in the commission of settlers living in Seraiki-speaking areas.

When contacted, Mr Khan said a large number of Urdu- and Punjabi-speaking people were also living in south Punjab.

Asked why he had not raised the issue earlier, he claimed that he had done so at the party level and even PPP Co-Chairman and President Asif Zardari had agreed to include them in the commission. The MNA said he had boycotted the meeting to register his protest.

Prominent among those who attended the meeting were Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Raza Hayat Haraj, Khwaja Sheeraz Mehmood, Mumtaz Gilani and Mohsin Leghari.

It may be recalled that the main opposition PML-N which is in power in Punjab has been boycotting the commission and has already declared that it would not accept its recommendations.

The PML-N alleges that the PPP is bulldozing the parliamentary process required for creation of new provinces just to gain political advantage in the forthcoming elections.

The commission had become 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 supports creation of Bahawalpur and Seraiki provinces and wants a national commission to take up the issue of creation of new federating units in other three provinces of the country as well, particularly Hazara province in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

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

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