ISLAMABAD: With elections fast approaching and a South Punjab province still nowhere in sight, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) is contemplating other options to consolidate its vote bank in the impoverished region.
Its main strategy is a plan to introduce a constitutional amendment which would strengthen the role of parliament in the creation of new provinces.
In addition to a constitutional amendment passed by parliament, a province cannot be bifurcated without the support of two-thirds of the respective provincial assembly through a resolution.
According to PPP insiders, the party believes it will have to take some tangible steps for the creation of South Punjab, in order to consolidate its position in the Southern belt.
During the last general elections and subsequent by-polls, the PPP had often said it supported a new South Punjab province. Key leaders, including former premier Yousaf Raza Gilani, campaigned for the cause at different forums.
But when the government finally constituted a commission, headed by Senator Farhatullah Babar, to build consensus on the creation of new provinces a few months back, it made little headway following a couple of preliminary meetings. Despite repeated attempts to contact him, Senator Babar was not available for comments on the fate of the commission.
Meanwhile, PPP Punjab President Manzoor Wattoo revealed that the government is now planning to introduce a bill to increase the role of parliament in such matters.
According to sources, however, there are some reservations within the PPP on the proposed move to enhance the federation’s powers especially from members from Sindh. Sindhi PPP members believe that once the federation gets such powers, there is a strong likelihood that their province will be next in line to be split into two.
As a result of this likely resistance, which will make getting the support of two-thirds of both houses of parliament difficult, the party may go for another ‘benign’ option according to PPP insiders: Getting a simple resolution passed in the National Assembly and Senate.
Adopting a fresh resolution before the next general elections will keep the issue of South Punjab alive for the election campaign.