February 2nd, 2022
By Rehan Piracha
On the heels of a bill for the creation of two new provinces in Punjab, an opposition senator has now tabled another bill in Senate with support of the government for the creation of three new provinces – Bahawalpur, South Punjab, and Hazara- in the country.
On January 31, Senator Talha Mehmood from Jamiat Ulema Islam Fazl (JUI-F), moved the bill on Constitution (Amendment) Act, 2022 in the upper house. The proposed Bahawalpur and South Punjab provinces would be carved out of Punjab while Hazara province would come out of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s territory. The bill follows another private member’s bill by PML-N Senator Rana Mehmoodul Hasan on creation of Bahawalpur and South Punjab provinces tabled on January 17.
Prior to the bill’s introduction, Ali Muhammad Khan, State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, said the Pakistan Tehrik Insaf government would support legislation for creation of new provinces in the country on the basis of administrative reasons and not on linguistic or racial prejudice.
“Any creation of an administrative unit that improves services to people and improves administration the PTI government will support it,” he said.
“If we think the creation of South Punjab province, which is part of our party manifesto, facilitates people and improves administration, just like the discussions on Hazara province, Potohar province, and some people are of the view that Karachi should be made a separate administrative to facilitate the provision of facilities and services to people there,” the minister explained his party viewpoint.
The minister said the PTI, Pakistan Peoples Party, and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz were on the same page on the creation of a new province of South Punjab. He said the bill should be referred to the standing committee for further discussions to create a consensus on new provinces. Upon this, PPP senator Yousaf Raza said military dictator Zia-ul-Haq had first proposed the creation of new administrative units at the level of divisions in the country.
He said the government should build upon the legislative work done by the PPP for the creation of new provinces instead of starting afresh.
Interestingly, PPP, PML-N and PTI had supported PMl-N Senator Rana Mehmoodul Hasan’s bill on the creation of Bahawalpur and South Punjab provinces tabled earlier in the Upper House on January 17.
What’s in the proposed constitutional amendment bill?
According to Senator Talha’s bill, the province of Bahawalpur will comprise the existing administrative division of Bahawalpur, the province of Hazara will comprise the existing administrative division of the Hazara, and the province of Janubi Punjab will comprise the existing administrative Divisions of the Dera Ghazi Khan and Multan.
The Bahawalpur division, Dera Ghazi Khan division, and Mu!tan division will stand excluded from the province of the Punjab, and the Hazara division will stand excluded from the province of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The bill proposed the allocation of seats in the National Assembly from the three provinces based on their current representation of elected representatives to the lower house. The Bahawalpur province will be allocated 19 seats in total including three reserved seats for women while Janubi Punjab will get 39 seats in National Assembly. The Hazara province will be allocated 15 seats in the lower house.
The provincial assembly of Bahawalpur will have a total of 45 seats while that of Janubi Punjab will have 90 seats. The Hazara provincial assembly will have 38 members.
Similarly, the total seats in Senate will be increased to 165 from 96 seats. Each province will have 17 members while Islamabad Capital Territory will have four members in the upper house. The bill also proposes the constitution of new high courts in the new provinces based at the principal seat in Bahawalpur, Multan, and Abbottabad.
What’s the constitutional procedure for creating new provinces?
Under Article 239 (4) of the Constitution, parliament can create a new province by passing a constitutional amendment bill provided that the provincial assembly of the province from which the new province is being carved out passes such bill with a two-thirds majority prior to the assent been given by the President.
Resolution in the provincial assembly
According to parliamentary procedures, the provincial assemblies should pass a resolution in favor of the creation of new provinces in their territory before either house of Parliament can table a constitutional amendment bill in this regard.
On May 9, 2012, the Punjab Assembly passed two separate resolutions for the revival of the pre-partition Bahawalpur province and the creation of a new province of South Punjab in the provincial territory. The resolution was moved by sitting law minister Rana Sanaullah and supported by the opposition PPP in the assembly.
On March 21, 2014, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assembly also adopted a resolution to call on the federal government to begin legislation for the creation of the Hazara province in its territory. On January 4, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Assembly again adopted a resolution with a majority to remind the federal government of its obligations to begin legislation for the proposed new province of Hazara.
The 2014 resolution called on the federal government to table a bill as well as establish a commission for the creation of Hazara province.
A two-thirds majority in Parliament, Provincial Assembly
Either of the houses in Parliament can table a constitutional amendment bill for the creation of a new province. The proposed bill has to be passed with a two-thirds majority in National Assembly and Senate. Once both houses have passed the constitutional amendment bill, it is to be referred to the respective provincial assembly which has also to pass the bill with a two-thirds majority to allow for the creation of new provinces in their respective territories.
After the passage of the constitutional amendment by the Parliament and concerned provincial assembly or assemblies, the President can give assent to the bill for the creation of new provinces in the country.
Previous legislation for new provinces
In March 2013, Senate had passed the 24th Constitutional Amendment Bill 2013, aiming at the creation of Bahawalpur Janoobi Punjab province in Punjab, with a two-thirds majority. However, the legislation was not passed in the National Assembly as well as the Punjab Assembly.
In August 2012, the Punjab Assembly had rejected the commission on the creation of new provinces constituted by the National Assembly speaker on the instruction of President Asif Ali Zardari in May.
The creation of new provinces has remained a divisive issue between major political parties. The PPP and PML-N had differed over the creation of the South Punjab province. The PPP had also rejected calls by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement for the creation of a new province in Sindh comprising Karachi and Hyderabad. There was also strong opposition to the Hazara Tehrik which called for a Hazara province in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Speaking to Voicepk.net, Senator Rana Mehmoodul Hasan hoped that all parties in parliament would come together to form a consensus on the creation of new provinces in the country. He said the Senate chairman would soon be constituting a standing committee that would take up the bills on new provinces in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.