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Creating New Provinces

The question is if PPP really thinks the creation of new provinces will make Pakistan stronger then why Sindh should not be divided into two or three provinces, on the lines of the three ‘Divisions’ which existed even during early days of Pakistan.

The year 2013 is election year in Pakistan and also the time when the political forces will be judged on the basis of their performances. The PPP and PML(N) have no mandate to create new provinces because manifestoes of these parties did not include the issue of new provinces before the elections of 2008. It seems perhaps both parties are not satisfied with the progress of federal and provincial governments and now trying to garner votes by exploiting the emotions of masses with the slogan of new provinces.

All major parties are encouraging further division of this already fractured country for their short-term gains.

First came the demand for a Hazara province, to be carved out of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, then the movement for a separate Seraiki province hit the headlines followed by the demand for a Bahawalpur province.

So far, the movements for these new provinces have been comparatively peaceful, limited to speeches, rallies and TV talk shows only. However, the recent wall-chalking and rallies in Karachi for a muhajir province (or southern Sindh province) have resulted in violence and killings of political workers of some parties. This demand has not been welcomed by other ethnic groups living in Sindh and the nationalist parties of Sindh have even vowed to forcibly stop any proposed division of the province.

The people who are demanding a muhajir province need to understand that this demand is a non-starter. The Urdu-speaking community is not limited to Karachi and Hyderabad only. A large number of Urdu-speaking people live in interior Sindh too. Any division,

or even a demand for a division, may lead to a bloodbath across the province. The firing on a rally in Karachi followed by killing of bus passengers in Nawabshah should be enough to alarm us. It is also a fact that those who are at the forefront of this demand may not be able to fulfil the constitutional requirement needed for the creation of a new province. Why create a rift among the communities living in Sindh then? Instead of a separate province, the proponents of this idea should insist on reasonable financial and administrative powers for local governments. This is the only way to serve the people.

Unfortunately, both PPP and PML(N) did not hold local bodies elections in Punjab and Sindh without any solid ground. If LB elections are regularly held and the power is decentralised at UC level people will be happy and they may not demand for new provinces.

‘The movement for creating more provinces is a brainchild of the PPP and its moving spirit is the prime minister himself by sponsoring creation of Seraiki province. In other countries, politicians conduct discussions on such ticklish matters by their think-tanks, consult intellectuals and experts. Here, in the party which has sponsored this move there is paucity of intellectuals and learned experts. Where agitational politics is the order of the day, absence of a think-tank is natural. In the erstwhile communist countries proposals for changes were placed in the offices of the party throughout the country for one year eliciting nation-wide debate and thereafter the proposed changes were discussed in the party and then placed in the National Assembly for approval. Here the more important the proposed change in the structure or system of the state the quicker the political bosses want the proposal to become law.

The president is head of the state but he chooses to send reference for the division of Punjab. The president must set up high level independent National Commission which must include financial and administrative experts to give its recommendation for creating new provinces in all the provinces of Pakistan.
There are two aspects of this proposal which need to be given serious consideration: One, can Pakistan afford the cost of creating new provinces? Two, will creating new provinces not finally be pitting ethnicity against Pakistanism promoting divisive forces challenging country’s existence? i.e. will the creation of new provinces not tear asunder Pakistan’s unity like it did in Yugoslavia in the 1980s. As a student of political science and seen ethnicity destroying Yugoslavia there I witnessed Yugoslavia’s disintegration when I was ambassador to Yugoslavia for four years. It is not easy to dismiss the apprehension of such a possibility. Ethnicity has already steeped in Pakistan through naming of a province on ethnic identity. One should not dismiss these apprehensions without having a national debate on the proposal. Discussing this topic, it is necessary to recall what chief minister of Balochistan has said, with which I entirely agree, that this scheme can be very dangerous for the country. I would go a step further; it can be so dangerous that to spell out the consequences better be avoided. Three, is it not an extreme exaggeration to claim that creating new provinces is required for development of those “backward areas”? Could somebody recall how utterly backward these areas were when Pakistan came into existence and what they are today, even Balochistan?” [Dr Samiullah Koreshi]

Pakistan is a poor country, current year’s budget deficit is almost Rs. 1105 billion. For example, if Punjab is divided into three provinces then two more governors, two more chief ministers secretariats and two more provincial assemblies will be required in view of the constitution of Pakistan. Who will provide the finances for the new expenditures. We have to see whether the new provinces will be financially feasible. The country is under a huge debt and unless expenditures are not reduced it may not survive economically. The president of Pakistan should have discussed the financial aspect with the experts.

The president also holds political office of PPP so political benefits prevail upon him so he sent the following reference to the Madam Speaker of the National Assembly ignoring financial constraints of the country. ‘Madam Speaker,

The National Assembly in its 41st session on May 3 passed a resolution to the effect that in order to address the grievances and to secure the political, administrative and economic interests of the people of the southern region of Punjab and to empower them in this regard, a new province to be known as province of Janoobi Punjab be created from the present province of Punjab. The provincial assembly of Punjab has also passed a similar resolution demanding parliament and federal government to create a new province of Janoobi Punjab and also to revive the earlier status of Bahawalpur as a province.

In order to implement the aforesaid resolutions and before a process is initiated to amend the constitution in terms of Article 239 thereof it is expedient that a commission may be constituted comprising six members from the Senate to be nominated by the chairman, six members from the National Assembly to be nominated by the speaker and two members from the provincial assembly of Punjab to be nominated by the speaker of the provincial assembly. The commission shall look into the issues relating to the fair distribution of economic and financial resources, demarcation, allocation/re-adjustment of seats in the National Assembly, Senate and the provincial assembly concerned and allocation of seats in the new province on the basis of population, including seats of minorities and women and other constitutional, legal and administrative matters. The provisions of the constitution which would require amendment inter alia include articles 1(2), 51, 59 and 106 of the constitution.

The commission shall submit its report to speaker as well as to prime minister within 30 days of its notification, which will be followed by initiation of the process of amendment of the constitution.’

The president is head of the state but he chooses to send reference for the division of Punjab. The president must set up high level independent National Commission which must include financial and administrative experts to give its recommendation for creating new provinces in all the provinces of Pakistan. Indian example needs research-based knowledge to understand the background which forces Indian government to create new provinces.

India is based on geographic nationalism, in Pakistan’s case ethnicity is anti-thesis of Pakistan’s nationalism. I can say so with confidence as I was in student leadership of Pakistan Movement in Aligarh University and Delhi University. With due apologies, it seems that PPP is promoting ethnicity ‘the first manifestation of which was creation of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, in which Nawaz Sharif joined hands. If the move to make new provinces catches roots, Pakistan would be de novo decimated into several petty ethnic provinces. Every frog will raise its paw and ask to put naals on it as is the saying in Urdu. A proposal has been made that Punjab should be divided into three/four provinces. Then, there should be at least two provinces in Balochistan, in Sarhad there should be a Hazara province also, another province of Bahawalpur also, and if Bahawalpur then Kalat and other Balochi states may also demand that they should be made new provinces, and if old extinct states are revived then the old ruling houses would demand to be restored, in other words waderaism will return with a vengeance.

In small perspective, the demand for Saraiki province is mainly to cut Punjab to size. The question is if PPP really thinks the creation of new provinces will make Pakistan stronger then why Sindh should not be divided into two or three provinces, on the lines of the three ‘Divisions’ which existed even during early days of Pakistan. There are only two possible motives for this scheme: To create cushy jobs for sons of the waderas in the Seraiki belt, Potohar, etc, and to deny Punjab the major part it plays in Pakistan politics and in the immediate future to cut Nawaz Sharif to size. But this scheme financially is a pipe dream and in essence destructive to Pakistan’s solidarity. It will be worst than creating a Bangladesh and destructive to Pakistan’s unity. It will breed virulent ethnicity. This is a scheme fraught with grave consequences. After such detailed analysis of the scheme to create new provinces, it will be seen that the proposal would damage Pakistan eventually and not just Nawaz Sharif. Personal politics should not be taken to the extent of destroying the country. [Dr Samiullah Koreshi]

By: Qayyum Nizami

 

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