ISLAMABAD - Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Monday submitted a constitutional amendment bill in the National Assembly proposing creation of Bahawalpur and South Punjab(Janoobi Punjab) provinces.
The bill submitted to the National Assembly Secretariat by MNAs Ahsan Iqbal, Rana Tanvir and Rana Sanaullah, has proposed a series of amendments in various articles of the constitution for meeting the legal and constitutional formalities of the new provinces.
According to it, the Bahawalpur province would consist of the current administrative division of Bahawalpur while the South Punjab will comprise the areas of Dera Ghazi Khan and Multan divisions.
The draft legislation calls for amendments in Articles 1, 51, 59, 106, 154, 198, 218 to meet the legal and constitutional requirements of the new provinces - including allocation of separate seats in federal legislatures and setting up of separate provincial legislatures.
Former interior minister Ahsan Iqbal addressing a press conference, along with former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Marriyum Aurangzeb here at the National Press Club, invited ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf to take the initiative, saying that his party would fully support it in fulfilling the longstanding demand of the people of southern Punjab.
Creation of South Punjab province is part of the manifestos of all the mainstream political parties including PML-N, PPP and PTI and efforts had been made in the past too - though with no fruitful results.
Political analysts said that keeping in view the composition of Punjab and federal government, there is no hurdle in the way of creation of Bahawalpur and South Punjab provinces.
Legal experts however were of the view that the demand for creation of new provinces in some province should come from the provincial legislature. The relevant provincial assembly should adopt the proposal with a two-thirds majority and then National Assembly and Senate of Pakistan should ratify it, again with two-thirds majority.
Even if the floated bill is passed by the National Assembly and Senate with two-thirds majority, it would have to be also adopted by the Punjab Assembly with two-thirds majority for the final approval, they said.
The bill submitted in the NA Secretariat by PML-N proposes amendments to Article 51 for the changes in allocation of seats in the National Assembly, making way for representation of the two new provinces in parliament.
Once the amendment is done, Bahawalpur will have 15 general and three women's seats, bringing the total count of seats to 18. The bill also calls for the allocation of 38 seats to the South Punjab province.
After the amendment, the total number of seats on the NA would rise to 326, out of which 266 will be general seats while 60 will be women-specific seats.
Two instead of one new province
In 2012 the then PPP government established a committee under the head of the then Senator Farhatullah Babar to workout modalities for creating new province in Punjab in consultation with all stakeholders.
In response to that move, the then Punjab government led by PML-N had passed a resolution from Punjab Assembly for creation of two, instead of one, new provinces out of the existing Punjab — South Punjab and Bahawalpur province.
The committee led by Farhatullah Babar had presented a comprehensive report on South Punjab province but the proposed piece of legislation could not be enacted as the term of PPP government had expired.
Media talk of PML-N leaders
PML-N leaders Ahsan Iqbal, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Marriyum Aurangzeb said in their media talk on Monday that they have achieved another milestone by submitting the constitutional amendment bill in the National Assembly for creation of new provinces and they would be looking forward to ruling alliance to help it get passed from the Parliament.
Ahsan Iqbal said that on behalf of his party, he is extending full support to the PTI government for creating the new provinces. “If the government is serious in the matter, the opposition will unconditionally second it,” he added.
The former interior minister also said his party had promised people of making new provinces as per their aspirations. “If the incumbent government is sincere in its claim then it should move the bill forward for formation of the aforesaid provinces.”
On the question of accountability, Abbasi said he and his cabinet of the previous tenure were ready for it. Ahsan said opposition does not want to topple the government and it will support government's public welfare projects such as provision of jobs and homes to the poor.