Will MQM-P’s idea of eight provinces work?

New provinces are the need of the hour. However, complex identity politics in the country shall raise serious political challenges to the government if it decides to create new provinces on the administrative basis.

Provinces

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement–Pakistan (MQM-P) on Friday submitted a bill in the National Assembly Secretariat for increasing the number of provinces in Pakistan to eight. The Bill is, if taken at administrative grounds, an interesting attempt to decentralize power in Pakistan. However, the country has a complex social organization that may raise several important questions if new provinces are created on administrative grounds.

The bill submitted by MQM-P legislator Kishwer Zehra calls for the creation of South Punjab and Bahawalpur provinces within the existing Punjab, as well as two provinces each in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and Sindh. The bill recommends that the existing KP be divided into a Hazara province and KP, while Sindh should be split into Northern Sindh and Southern Sindh.

The eight provinces proposed by the MQM-P would be Punjab, South Punjab, Bahawalpur, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Hazara, Northern Sindh, Southern Sindh, and Balochistan. The bill calls for the total number of general and women’s seats in the NA to be increased from 332 to 335.

Read more: Should the Federal Government reduce Provinces’ share in upcoming NFC?

It provides a breakdown of NA seats if the changes are implemented: three for Islamabad, nine for Hazara, 20 for Balochistan, 32 for Southern Sindh, 38 for Southern Punjab, 43 for Northern Sindh, 55 for K-P, and 117 for Punjab.

MQM-P has also demanded an increase in Senate seats from 104 to 188, proposing eight seats for FATA, four for Islamabad, and 22 each for the eight provinces.

In September, a constitutional amendment bill was introduced in the Senate seeking the creation of a new province under the name of Bahawalpur-Janoobi Punjab.

The bill to create a new province by bifurcating Punjab was jointly sponsored by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) lawmakers Bahramand Tangi, Rubina Khalid, Imamuddin Shouqeen, Sikandar Mandhro, Islamuddin Shaikh, Gianchand, Keshoo Bai, Sherry Rehman, and Jamaat-e-Islami’s Mushtaq Ahmed.

Read more: No new provinces in Sindh: PM Imran Khan

In May this year, Prime Minister Imran Khan debunked Sindh Governor’s statement of “forming a new province on administrative grounds” by illuminating that there is no need to create a new province in Sindh. During his address to the leaders of the coalition that formed up the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) at the Governor House, Prime Minister Imran firmly stated, “Sindh is and will continue to remain intact.”

PTI MNAs introduce bill for South Punjab province

On May 14, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) parliamentarians introduced the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2019 as private member bill seeking the creation of the South Punjab province.

PTI members Makhdoom Syed Samiul Hassan Gillani and Sardar Nasarullah Khan Dareshak submitted the private member bill seeking amendments to Article 1, 51, 59, 106, 175A, 198 and 298 of the Constitution.

The amendment bill proposes that the province of South Punjab shall comprise territories of Multan, Bahawalpur and Dera Ghazi Khan divisions having own provincial assembly and the high court. The PML-N had opposed the introduction of the amendment bill, saying the ruling party’s members wanted to take the credit as two similar bills had already been referred to the standing committee concerned.

PML-N member Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that the PML-N was also in support of the creation of new provinces like Janubi Punjab. Meanwhile, Pakistan Peoples Party’s Raja Pervaiz Ashraf had said that it was his party’s government, which took initiative for the creation of Janubi Punjab province.

PML-N tables bill for two new provinces in the national assembly

In April, Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) tabled a bill in the National Assembly for the creation of two new provinces – Bahawalpur and South Punjab. PML-N’s senior leader Ahsan Iqbal had said that if the government was serious about establishing the two provinces in Punjab, the PML-N would support them unconditionally.

During elections, PTI had promised to divide Punjab into two provinces – central and south Punjab. However, the PML-N and PTI’s coalition partners; the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, wants the division three ways – central, south and Bahawalpur.

New Political Landscape

At the moment, Geo News reported that the Bahawalpur division has 15 seats in the Parliament, of which the city of Rahim Yar Khan has six, Bahawalpur five and Bahawalnagar has four. PML-N’s recent bill suggests keeping the existing administrative division of Bahawalpur and expanding its share in the National Assembly to 18 seats – 15 contestable and three reserved for women.

Read more: PML-N, two coalition parties question PTI’s stand over new provinces

While South Punjab would have 38 seats – 31 general and seven for women. The latter province would comprise of Dera Ghazi Khan and Multan. On a provincial level, it continued, the Bahawalpur Assembly would have 39 members and south Punjab’s assembly would comprise of 80 members of the provincial assembly (MPAs), of which 64 will be on general seats, 14 on those reserved for women and two for non-Muslims.

Among several challenges in creating province(s), the PTI government would require large resources and long term adjustments. Reelections and who forms a government where would also be tough challenges that will come along with the new province(s), if the ruling party decides to go ahead during its five-year term.

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