LAHORE - The creation of a new province, comprising 11 districts of South Punjab, may take about a year or so to become functional once a constitutional amendment for the purpose is passed by the Parliament and the Punjab legislature. 

And with the emergence of a new federating unit, new formula for water distribution and financial resources will have to be worked out, an exercise that will require considerable time, experts say.

Besides, a sum of Rs 50 billion (approximately) will be required to set up new infrastructure to construct Chief Minister’s Secretariat, Governor House, Civil Secretariat and other offices.

The proposed South Punjab if established would comprise of three divisions including Bahawalpur Division, D G Khan and Multan.

The composition of the parliament will change after the July 25 election of the National Assembly and much will depend on the thinking of the new legislators and the parties they will come from.

Availability of a large number of officers of various grades will also be a challenging task for the new government, especially because there is already a shortage of bureaucrats in Punjab. Currently, a large number of offices are lying vacant or being run on stop-gap arrangement or hiring officers on deputation from other departments because of the non-availability of the suitable baboos.

To run the new province, the government will need a chief secretary, an IGP both of grade 22 officers, additional chief secretary (ACS), Senior Member Board of Revenue (SMBR), Chairman P&D, Chief Minister’s Inspection Team (CMIT) Chairman, and IGP Jails. Moreover, at least 40 secretaries of grade 20, members of Punjab Service Tribunal, Environment Tribunal, BOR of grade 21, additional secretaries, Deputy Secretaries, DCs, Additional IGs, DIGs, Regional Police Officers, District Police Officers and many more. Offices and members for the Public Service Commission, Cane Commissioner, Information Commissioner etc would be required. At least, 300 administrative and police officers will be required to run the province. He said that the BOR will provide the lands to establish offices.

The provincial assembly will pass a resolution with a two-third majority that will be stamped by the parliament with the same majority to establish a new province. He said that at least one year would be required to make the new province fully functional.

The new High Court will be established and more judges will be required to dispense justice. Advisor on finance Miftah Ismail while commenting on the PTI point to establish the Southern Punjab Province had claimed that Rs 50 billion will be needed to establish it. The money would consume to construct the government head office the Civil Secretariat, Assembly Secretariat, Governor House and secretariat, Chief Minister Office, head offices for all the departments.

PTI opposition leader in the Punjab Assembly Mian Mehmood ur Rasheed responding queries said if a province can spend Rs 140 b to construct an orange line metro train it could surely go for Rs 50 billion to establish a new province. He said that the extravagant spending in ‘takht e Lahore’ and other provinces could be curtailed to fund South Punjab. Moreover, the Bahawalpur area, also proposed to be included in South Punjab, generates cotton and a source of revenue. He said that if you have an intention to do anything you overcome all the legal formalities. Without doing a complete homework on the creation of new provinces the issue will become controversial like the Kalabagh dam.

The politicians from South Punjab see Multan to be the provincial capital while the people from Bahawalpur do its advocacy.

When this newspaper talked to an officer who served in Bahawalpur he said that Bahawalpur city was situated in the centre of the entire region. He said that the people of Multan claim that Multan city was more developed as compared to Bahawalpur.  He said that both of the cities are equally developed one way or the other but after the creation of 1 unit the state of Bahawalpur was badly ignored so it seems as it lagged behind so far as development is concerned. 

He said that both of the cities are equally developed both have universities both have core headquarters for military establishments both have medical colleges. The only difference is the Multan Metro Bus Service which was constructed during the last 10 years of the outgoing PML-N government. 

On the other hand, the spacious city of Bahawalpur may accommodate more offices; more infrastructures because it had more space in the public sector as compared to Multan where lands would have to be acquired.  Multan was on one end of the newly established unit and people from the remote areas of Rahim Yar Khan, Sadiqabad, Bahawal Nagar have to travel hundreds of miles to reach Multan.

An official while talking on the division of a province into two said it was a hectic exercise to distribute assets like the water for irrigation purposes, government officers, and departments’ infrastructure. The water accord of 1991 between the federating units would need another review. The issue of the water shortage was also discussed in the CCI last meeting. The establishment of the tax collection mechanism will be another issue.

Moreover, consent from officers and officials working in a joint province will be sought and their seniority issue would multiply workload on courts. A good number of officials from the southern districts have been working in Lahore and other cities of the central and upper Punjab and vice versa.

Their consent for adjustment will be required to adjust them in their respective provinces. Southern Punjab and especially Bahawalpur division was severely affected by the water shortage and many issues surfaced after Indian water terrorism.

Malik Muhammad Ahmad Khan spokesperson for the Punjab government didn’t respond on the query why the outgoing government could not materialize its promise to establish the province.