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Senate clears bill to bifurcate Punjab

07 March, 2013

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ISLAMABAD: The Upper House of the parliament on Wednesday 'unanimously' passed the Twenty-Fourth Constitutional Amendment Bill 2013 to create new province of Junoobi Punjab amid walkout by PML-N and the National Party.

The JUI-F did not take part in the proceedings.

Law Minister Farooq Naik termed it a historic day while the PML-N branded it a black day in the history of Pakistan. 70 members of the Senate, minimum required to get a constitutional amendment passed, supported the bill while no one opposed. Opposition parties MQM, ANP, BNP-A and PML-Q supported the constitutional amendment, thanks to hectic legwork by Chief Whip Islamuddin Sheikh.

Independent Senator Mohsin Leghari was the only senator who opposed the bill and presented several amendments but he also walked out while the counting began.

The new province comprises territories of Multan, Bahawalpur, Dera Ghazi Khan Division and districts of Mianwali and Bhakkar.

PML-N Senator Ishaq Dar termed the bill a 'political drama' ahead of the general election, and suggested the government to withdraw it. He said the Punjab Assembly in a resolution passed on Aug 29, 2012 had rejected the commission formed for carving out new province(s) in Punjab.

Dar said his party had serious reservations over the composition of the commission. He said opposition leaders in both Houses of the parliament were not consulted on formation of the commission. He said creation of a new province requires a huge amount of Rs 250 billion, and questioned wherefrom the money will come. Dar said if the government succeeded in passage of the bill in Centre, it will be rejected in the Punjab Assembly where the PPP doesn't have two-thirds majority.

Independent Senator from Punjab Mohsin Leghari said the federal government doesn't have the right to present bill for creation of more provinces under the current constitutional set-up, saying the Senate had acted beyond its powers. He said the commission report had totally ignored important issues like distribution of water resources and the financial resources. "The dissenting note by Raza Rabbani clearly states that the creation of a new province in Punjab will disturb the structure of the federation," he added.

National Party Senator Mir Hasil Khan Bezenjo said dream of a new province in Punjab will not be fulfilled because no one was making sincere efforts for it. He said that PPP wanted to grab more seats in southern Punjab through passage of the bill but it would never materialise. He said PPP government is lying with the people of Seraiki areas, who had not been taken into confidence prior to merging them into the proposed province.

He said, if passed, the bill will became main cause of PPP's defeat in interior Sindh. He said MQM supported the bill because they are planning to demand provincial status for Karachi in future. He suggested the government to withdraw the bill as it will open a Pandora's box in the country.

Syed Muzaffar Shah of PML-F said it was surprising that the new constitutional amendment was presented with only 10 days left with the government. He said government didn't have majority in the National Assembly as well as Punjab Assembly and feared that the government attempt may end up in nothing. He said the issue should be left for the new government to decide over. He said the PML-F would entirely oppose because it will open a new Pandora's box.

Senator Zafar Ali Shah of PML-N termed it as '420th Constitutional Amendment'.

Raja Zafarul Haq said Mianwali and Bukkar areas were included in the proposed province to 'deprive' Punjab with Indus water. He called the bill a conspiracy against the existence of Pakistan.

PPP Senator and chairman of the commission Farhatullah Babar said if this parliament passes 18th Amendment, why can't it pass the bill for creation of a new province. He said Punjab Assembly has the right to reject as we have the right to pass it.

After passage of the bill, Law Minister Farooq Naek congratulated the House and termed it a historic day. MQM Senator Babar Ghauri said his party always supported such type of demands arising from any part of the country.

End.

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