President Asif Zardari has formally asked National Assembly Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza to form a commission on the creation of Janoobi Punjab province and the revival of the provincial status of Bahawalpur. The President has initiated a process for which he did not have a mandate and which had better been left to the post-election federal and Punjab governments. It is obvious that the PPP intends to split Punjab to win election in the new province. Since 1988, the PPP has led the federal government thrice, but never the Punjab government, of which it has been a part twice. The President’s direction that a commission be formed also takes into account the Punjab Assembly resolution on a Bahawalpur province, which was the PML-N’s counter-proposal, and which splits the proposed Janoobi Punjab further.
It is noteworthy that President Zardari has not even mentioned one of the main tasks of the commission, working out how the new provinces would be funded. New provinces come expensive, with entirely new paraphernalia, of elected governments and permanent bureaucracies, which must be funded on the same scale as the existing provinces. The government should let this idea drop, and leave it to its successor to handle, if indeed there is any need.