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PML-N insists on two new provinces

January 27, 2013

Opposition leader in National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan addressing a press conference at Punjab House. — Photo by INP

ISLAMABAD: Rejecting the government move to carve out one large province from Punjab, the main opposition PML-N said on Sunday it would continue its efforts for new provinces on the basis of the resolutions unanimously adopted by the Punjab Assembly.

Leader of opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said at a press conference that PML-N would seek creation of Bahawalpur and south Punjab provinces through amendments to the bill the government planned to table in parliament for creation of “Bahawalpur Janoobi Punjab”.

The bill was drafted on Saturday by the ‘controversial’ parliamentary commission on new provinces.

Chaudhry Nisar, who had earlier called for removal of all provincial governors, presented a list of senior government officials at the federal and provincial levels and heads of various institutions and said his party wanted them to be replaced before elections.

He said PML-N had written a letter to the Election Commission of Pakistan on its demand for the transfers and the matter would be presented before it formally after a sit-in by all opposition parties outside Parliament House.

The commission, headed by Senator Farhatullah Babar, the spokesman for President Asif Ali Zardari, reportedly approved the draft of a constitution amendment bill seeking creation of a new province to be called “Bahawalpur Janoobi Punjab”. It will comprise three divisions and two districts of Punjab.

The PML-N, which is the ruling party in the province, has boycotted the commission and has announced that it will not accept its recommendations. It has accused PPP of ignoring the parliamentary process required for creation of new provinces to gain political advantage in the elections.

The PML-N objects to the composition of the commission and its focus on only one province. The party wants a national commission to take up the issue of creation of new federating units by also dividing three other provinces, particularly Hazara province by bifurcating Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Chaudhry Nisar alleged that the commission headed by “a staff officer at the Presidency” had violated its mandate by suggesting just one province because it had been given the task to prepare the proposals for creating two provinces comprising the Seraiki-speaking region.

He said he did not know why the government was acting hastily on the issue despite knowing that the ruling coalition was not in a position to get the bill adopted without PML-N’s support.

 Caretaker set-up

Ch Nisar said he had already started consultations with opposition parties over caretaker set-up and expressed the hope that they would unanimously suggest names for the post of caretaker prime minister.

Despite “bitter relations” with the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf, he had decided to hold consultations with it as well. Chaudhry Nisar demanded that all IGs of police, chief commissioner of Islamabad, provincial chief secretaries and home secretaries, attorneys general and advocates general and federal and provincial secretaries of finance, information, cabinet division and establishment division be replaced before the polls.

Besides, he said, the heads of the Federal Investigation Agency, Intelligence Bureau, Pakistan Television, Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation, Nadra, Pemra and senior members of the Board of Revenue should also be replaced.

Moreover, he said, the PML-N also wanted to see all the ambassadors appointed on political basis, particularly in the US and the UK, recalled before the polls.

When asked how the ECP could make these changes, he said the commission could at least ask the caretaker government to do it, adding that the commission had become as powerful as its Indian counterpart.

Chaudhry Nisar said the opposition parties would hold a sit-in outside Parliament House to protest against delay in appointment of leaders of opposition in Sindh and Balochistan assemblies and to press for their demand to make the ECP more powerful and independent to ensure free and fair elections.

The date for the one-day sit-in was being finalised, he said, adding that opposition leaders from Sindh had been invited to join.

He said the protesters would march to the ECP and hand over a memorandum containing their demands.

He clarified that the sit-in plan was not against the ECP, but in its favour.

He alleged that voters’ verification was not being carried out in Karachi in accordance with the Supreme Court’s decision in this regard. Instead of army, he alleged, members of a political party were accompanying the ECP teams during door-to-door verification.