President Asif Zardari recently sent a reference to the Speaker National Assembly, Dr Fehmida Mirza, about the establishment of a commission to form two new provinces, Multan and Bahawalpur, in Punjab.
There is a perception that the understanding reached between the PPP and the PML-N would be short-lived and the latter would not accept the creation of the Seraiki province only. And that it is not possible for the PPP to secure a two-thirds majority in the Punjab Assembly to get the bill passed without the PML-N’s support.
Earlier resolutions will, however, have little impact on the constitutional scheme about the federating units, as provided under Article 239(4) of the Constitution that says: “A bill amending geographical boundaries of a province shall either originate in the National Assembly or the Senate. And after the approval of the bill with a two-thirds majority by both houses, it shall go to the Provincial Assembly for the approval by a two-thirds majority. It will then go to the President for his assent to new geographical limits of new provinces.” This means that the resolutions adopted by the National Assembly and the Provincial Assembly will have to be translated into a formal bill to amend the Constitution to create new provinces in Punjab.
Nevertheless, the two resolutions have made the task for drafting the amendment bill easy, because this now becomes the unanimous demand of all major political parties emerging into a national consensus. But the PML-N would not support the move, if the amendment to restore the status of the Bahawalpur province is not made.
Anyhow, apart from creating further divisions in the nation, the creation of the provinces would entail huge sums for the paraphernalia, such as governors have to be appointed; members of the assemblies have to be elected, and cabinets are to be formed. Last but not the least, all of them would be entitled to perks and privileges, placing more financial burden on the people.
Having said that, this is the time for unity and not for creating further divisions that have already blighted the nation. Pakistan is, indeed, facing multifaceted crises and threats to its internal and external security, but both major parties are at loggerheads oblivious to the dangers ahead. During the last four years, no thoughtful ways have been suggested by any of the partisans to stamp out rampant poverty, squalor and pestilence from the land.
At best, they talk of the peoples’ tribulations and travails spuriously just for scoring political points against each other. This leaves no doubt that neither do they feel the pangs and anguish that the economically-distressed people are going through so painfully, nor have they any real heart in alleviating their woeful predicaments. It is true that for the last six decades, the profligacy of the rulers in general and the politics of power and pelf had brought the country to the brink of an economic collapse. The state apparatus has fallen to personalised whims and self-aggrandisement. Meanwhile, the ineptness of the rulers has led to inertness, economic disparity and depression internally and ignominy internationally.
In Pakistan, there are leaders with dedicated followers, knowledge, and material resources. Yet, the state and the society remains clueless as to how to capitalise on these rich resources; release the immense latent energy; and reach the ultimate goal of spiritual emancipation, prosperity, social cohesion and solidarity of the people. However, it is never too late to mend! Therefore, the politicians, judiciary and other institutions should act in unison to meet the challenges faced by the nation.
n The writer is a senior journalist and freelance columnist.