Sunday, August 7

PML-N’s testing time at Punjab Assembly

For the first time in the history of Pakistan, one federating unit, Punjab, is facing a unique situation regarding the creation of a new province, since the opposition has submitted a resolution to initiate the subject at the largest provincial legislative house, which will be seeing the daylight on August 11, when the Punjab Assembly meets for its 29th session.
Political analysts are of the considered opinion that now it will be the test of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s political acumen and pragmatism, and provincial Law Minister Rana Sanaullah’s constitutional wisdom. However, it is yet to be seen how they respond to a ‘unique’ move. Also, it remains to be seen whether the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid’s resolution is technically knocked out during the business committee meeting on the given day or it is placed before the House for debate, followed by voting.
The speaker has the authority to say no to the resolution and deny making it part of the agenda under the pretext of ‘public interest’. If he does so, even then the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz will be exposed for being against the idea of new province. If he allows, and reaches the stage of voting, and the N-League opposes it, the party will be on the slippery pitch again.
The reason for the resolution is to put the PML-N to test since the PPP-PML-Q duo knows very well that it does not have the mandatory two-thirds majority in the assembly.
Certainly, whatever Punjab legislators are going to decide, it will have a lasting impact on the next general elections, which are not too far in the future even if the current assemblies complete their constitutional term.
Also, a huge pressure is mounting on the provincial legislators, to the likes of Makhdoom Ahmed Mahmood, Muhammad Mohsin Khan Leghari and others, since they will be closely watched by all and sundry across the province, whether they would rise above their party affiliations, and address the issue, which they have kept close to their hearts since long. Also their electorate will be watching them whom they have many a time fed on the sloganeering regarding the creation of a province. However, it is believed that MPs from southern Punjab would outplay their colleagues from the rest of Punjab in delivering sermons and dishing out advices enumerating benefits of one more province.
To some experts, passing of the resolution from the Punjab Assembly is not doable, and even if the first stage is completed after constitutional requirement of doing it with two-thirds majority is actualised, it will open many fronts leading to further divisions of provinces on either linguistic or ethnic basis, which nobody will ever envy.
Political pundits maintain that the ruling party of the province, PML-N, in its heart of hearts does not want a new province since it will lead to divide its own strength as well as resources, while lesser is believed to be pouring in from southern Punjab, except in the form of raw material. No-one has answered the question, “Which part pays more taxes?” Similarly, the PPP, which is deemed to be playing a political card to make the N-League cripple under pressure and lose ballot, does not intend to complete the move since Sindh would also stand divided into Sindhi and non-Sindhi at some point of time, if not now. One part will have majority of the Urdu-speaking and Pashtuns with Sindhis in minority, while in the second, the situation will be reversed with certain other elements coming to the fore. Also, other provinces will demand the same division. Already, the Hazarites of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa are demanding Hazara as a new province, while Balochs are for separating Pashtuns from them after dividing Balochistan.
The constitutional experts believe that if the Punjab Assembly passes a resolution, and other mandatory steps are actualised, then Punjab would have 40 seats in the Senate, while the other province would have 25 each. This would create more bitterness among the other federating units, who have been repeatedly alleging Punjab of dominating other parts of the country.
Nevertheless, the PML-N is sitting on a hot seat, and PPP’s political move, which is primarily aimed at denting its adversary’s vote bank and eroding its credibility, is so far gaining moss, and has successfully diverted people’s attention from other pressing issues of huge importance.

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