‘New provinces’ a provincial subject
February 03, 2012
A legislation done during the Zia era is likely to become a source of irritation for the PPP and its allies, which intend to carve out more provinces out of the existing ones.
Clause 4 was added to Article 239 of the Constitution during Zia era which bars the Centre from legislating on the subject of changing the boundaries of a province without their consent.
MQM has submitted a Private Member Bill seeking the creation of Hazara and Southern Punjab provinces in the National Assembly to the much annoyance of ANP and PML-N. The said bill seeks amendment to Article 1 to add the names of new provinces it has proposed. It also seeks omitting of the clause 4 of Article 239 that makes obligatory for the Centre to seek assent of the concerned province before changing its boundaries.
The PPP which had also announced support for the Saraiki province did not object to the bill.
However, Mian Raza Rabbani, who had led the parliamentary committee on constitutional reforms, has put on record his opinion that ‘new provinces’ are a provincial, rather than a federal subject.
The PPP has vowed to create a Saraiki province out of three lower divisions of Punjab, while MQM wants to add to this proposed province two Saraiki speaking districts of Khyber-Pukhtoonkhawah.
Various parties have tried to submit resolution in the Punjab Assembly for the division of the provinces but the Speaker has not allowed it. In KP Assembly, Gauhar Nawaz Khan, an MPA from Harripur, had submitted a resolution, but discussion or voting has not happened.
Prime Minister Gilani has said on many occasions that he had developed Multan as the capital of South Punjab/ Saraiki province. “If this province is not created in my tenure, when will it happen”, he once wondered on the floor of National Assembly.
“The way out is omitting or amending the clause 4 of Article 239,” says the head of Pakistan Saraiki Party, Barrister Taj Muhammad Khan Langah, adding that it is impossible to create Saraiki province if the consent of the concerned province remains mandatory.
So far the demand for Hazara, Saraiki and Bahawalpur provinces, has gained momentum which will require amending article 1 and 239, and has been duly opposed by the ANP and PML-N which control KP and Punjab, respectively.
The PML-N, which has proposed a national commission on new provinces, and the ANP have reached an informal agreement, out of necessity, to stick to the point that new provinces are provincial subjects and that they would resist any move to give the Centre the right to make any changes in the boundaries of the four provinces.
National Peoples Party (NPP) intends to move a resolution in the Sindh Assembly to prevent the Centre from changing the Article 239 (4) and enjoys the backing of many PPP members as well.
The nationalist parties of Sindh have recently come to the fore and have announced resisting any move to make ‘new provinces’ a federal subject. Save Sindh Committee, comprising nationalist groups, has announced shutter down strike across the province on January 28th terming MQM’s move a conspiracy against Sindh (due to its targeting of Article 239).
Jalal Mahmood Shah, the convener of Save Sindh Committee, has reportedly said, after announcing shutter down strike across the province, that the Parliament owes its existence to four provinces and that whether to create new provinces or not, the decision solely rests with the provinces not federation.
The nationalists of smaller provinces have always supported the demanded for a Saraiki province (Southern Punjab), but have insisted that the same should be carved out of Punjab only, despite that many adjoining districts of the rest of three provinces constitute majority of Saraiki speaking people.
Lest the PPP moves ahead (which it has so far desisted) to honor the commitment of Premier Gilani vis-à-vis the creation of Saraiki/ Southern Punjab province, the move will not only be resisted in Southern Punjab (by Bahawalpur, which aspires to get its provincial status restored), but also in Sindh as well.
Saraiki nationalists which have been a backbone of PPP in Southern Punjab will be alienated if the party does not include two districts of KP (DI Khan and Tank) in the proposed Saraiki province. If it pleases them, the ANP will get annoyed.
It is worth mentioning that Balochistan Assembly has already rejected the idea of Saraiki province (short of passing a resolution) and has instead supported restoring the provincial status of the former princely state of Bahawalpur.