Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Monday submitted a draft constitutional amendment bill in the National Assembly, seeking two separate provinces in Punjab - Bahawalpur and South Punjab.
"If Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government is serious in creation of Bahawalpur and South Punjab provinces, the PML-N will support it unconditionally... it is a test case for those playing the card of Southern Punjab," said PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal while speaking at a joint news conference along with senior party leaders including former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and PML-N Spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb.
They informed the media persons that the bill which was submitted to the National Assembly Secretariat by party lawmakers, including Ahsan Iqbal, Rana Tanvir, Rana Sanaullah and Abdul Rehman Kanjo, seeks amendment in the Article 1 of the Constitution to create Bahawalpur and South Punjab provinces in Punjab.
Bahawalpur province will consist of the current administrative division that is considered Bahawalpur, while the current divisions of Dera Ghazi Khan and Multan will fall into the South Punjab province.
In its statement of object and reasons, the bill stated that the provincial assembly of Punjab had passed two separate resolutions for the restoration of the provincial status of Bahawalpur and creation of a new province of Junabi (Southren) Punjab, adding that the resolutions were supported by members from political parties on both sides of the House.
It further stated that the people from erstwhile state of Bahawalpur and from Southern Punjab continue to press for establishment of new provinces and the constitutional bill seeks to meet their very genuine demand by restoring the provincial status of Bahawalpur and creating the province of Southern Punjab.
The bill also seeks amendment in the Article 51, which will bring changes in allocation of seats in the National Assembly in order to give representation of the two new provinces in the Parliament.
After the amendment is made in the Article 51, it suggested submission in the clause (3) under which the total strength of the National Assembly become 326, out which 266 will be general sears and 60 seats will be reserved for women.
National Assembly: It suggests that Bahawalpur will have 15 general and three women's' seats, bringing the total count of seats to 18; Balochistan, 16 general seats and 4 reserved for women, bringing its total to 20; Janubi Punjab, 31 general seats and 7 seats reserved for women, bringing the total to 38; Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 45 general seats and 10 seats reserved for women, bringing the total to 55; Punjab, 95 general seats and 22 seats reserved for women, bringing the total to 117; Sindh, 61 general seats and 14 seats reserved for women, bringing the total to 75; and 3 general seats have also been suggested for the federal capital.
Provincial Assemblies: the bill also suggests amendment in the Article 106, proposing that each provincial assembly will consist of general seats and seats reserved for women and non-Muslims as specified herein; Bahawalpur will have 31 general, 7 women's' seats and one for non-Muslims, bringing the total number of seats to 39; Balochistan, 51 general seats, 11 seats reserved for women and 3 seats for non-Muslims, bringing its total to 65; Janubi Punjab, 64 general seats, 14 seats reserved for women and 2 seats for non-Muslims, bringing the total to 80; Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 115 general seats, 26 seats reserved for women and 4 seats for non-Muslims, bringing the total to 145; Punjab, 202 general seats, 45 seats reserved for women and 5 seats for non-Muslims bringing the total to 252; and Sindh, 130 general seats, 29 seats reserved for women and 9 for non-Muslims, bringing the total to 168. The bill also calls for an amendment in the Article 154 of the Constitution, through which a National Commission for the Creation of New Provinces should be constituted to deal with the area and other such specifications of the new provinces.
The bill also said that the Article 175(A) of the Constitution should be amended to create principle seats of the Supreme Court and the high court in the new provinces. "We fear that the PTI government may take another U-turn on the formation of new provinces," Ahsan Iqbal maintained, adding that PTI had in its election campaign pledged the formation of a new province in Southern Punjab.
He also rejected the impression that opposition wants to topple the government, adding that they will support government's public welfare projects such as provision of jobs and homes to the poor.
Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that he and his cabinet of the previous tenure are ready for accountability and advised the PTI government to stop the alleged victimisation of its opponents. "If government believes that the solution of challenges to the national economy lays in the accountability of the PML-N, we are ready," Abbasi said, adding that accountability should begin from him [PM] and his cabinet.
Referring to the economic challenges, Abbasi maintained that the government has lost the confidence of business community, adding that the country's economy would not get better through tweets. "If the government wasn't in hurry, why the mini-budget was presented in haste," he asked.
The former prime minister said that Prime Minister Imran Khan and his cabinet ministers give lectures on daily basis but there is no vision to deal with the economic challenges. Abbasi further said that Prime Minister Khan should also look into the asset details of his cabinet members.