There is no good argument against the creation of more provinces. Then what cause withholds us to start that process? Politics. Our parochial, self-serving and divisive politics.

This government led a spirited campaign for the creation of the South Punjab province, cautiously divulging little on the campaign trail regarding the precise geographical boundaries of that province. Similar promises have been made in the past by the PPP and have not been honored. But the great conundrum of Naya Pakistan is while its difficult for PTI to follow through with the campaign promise of change, given the flickering majority in the Houses Ė more on it later, to renege on its promise of more provinces would be suicidal. Damned if they do Ė damned if they donít!

Numbers donít help PTI. The Constitution under Article 239(4) requires that if any amendment (2/3rd of votes needed) would have the effect of altering the limits of a province, then before the assent of the President, such a proposed amendment must also be passed by the provincial assembly of concerned province by the votes of not less than two-thirds of its total membership. This is where PTI has landed itself in trouble. They donít enjoy the numbers needed i.e. two-thirds of total membership, both in the center and in the province of Punjab to create more promises. And thus the politics of provinces start, and whenever this word appears; it invariably implies a negative connotation! No secret PML-now-N, has always been on the wrong side of history regarding creation of more provinces. For them division of Punjab is a death knell of their power politics. In order to expand the debate and to kill it eventually, this time around, they introduced a bill for the creation of Hazara Province following the submission of a constitutional amendment bill seeking the creation of Bahawalpur and South Punjab provinces.

No secret PML-now-N, has always been on the wrong side of history regarding creation of more provinces. For them division of Punjab is a death knell of their power politics. In order to expand the debate and to kill it eventually, this time around, they introduced a bill for the creation of Hazara Province following the submission of a constitutional amendment bill seeking the creation of Bahawalpur and South Punjab provinces

Hazara Division has been a stronghold for PML traditionally Ė it was so even before partition. Though this time, of the seven returning candidates in the national assembly, PML (N) could only return two and in the provincial assembly the party returned three from eighteen contested seats. The popularity of the party has waned over time and signs were there even in the 2013 General Elections. To breathe new life in their dwindling ranks with tactical opposition to Punjabís division, PML has introduced a bill for Hazara at this stage Ė despite there being no political campaign from any mainstream party at the local level for the creation of Hazara province.

The campaign for the demand from the people of Hazara has ebbed since its peak in 2010, when the name of the province was changed to KP. Abbottabad even witnessed a cold blooded murder of seven of its residents when on April 12, 2010, shots were fired on peaceful protesters by the law enforcement. While the people have not forgiven that mass murder, their faith in PTI was indicative that politics of division were spurned. PTI never unequivocally promised the creation of a province of Hazara with a definite time frame. It never shared a stage with Tehreek-Suba-Hazara and its stalwarts.

However, it does not mean people do not want a separate province and enjoy being micromanaged from Peshawar Ė who for the most part has looked the other way. But the people of Hazara, from the organic development of events since the passage of Eighteenth Amendment has changed the name of the province, have rejected reactionary politics spewing animus against pashtuns and will once again discard the patronizing treatment of being reduced as an insurance policy against events in Punjab. The demand for provinces in KP is genuine and is based on administrative contingencies of the province. But it appears, that the people of Hazara, at present with their faith reposed in PTIís socio-economic agenda, that by the by enjoy 2/3rd majority in the province, are not really concerned.

Punjab needs more provinces. Perhaps to the extent of Punjab, PML(N) is redeeming itself with the proposed bill of two more provinces. But for now, the legitimate demand for the province of South Punjab must not be hijacked by shifting posts to KP or by expanding the debate to an extent that political consensus becomes illusory.



As for PTI, they have done little to deliver the campaign promise of a separate province in South Punjab. Political will for the province of South Punjab will only manifest if PTI actively eggs on a public debate in the house and outside it in order to develop an overwhelming public opinion for the new province. And then lobby for the amendment process. Short of that Ė PTI too will be selling lies and calling it politics!

The writer attended Berkeley and is a Barrister of Lincolnís Inn

Published in Daily Times, February 17th 2019.