It seems that the PPP has once again misstepped. It has made the mistake of mixing the defence of Prime Minister Gilani with the issue of new provinces. It has not only committed the blunder of passing a resolution in the National Assembly on South province, but has also passed a constitutionally and procedurally meaningless vote of confidence in Mr Gilani. The resolution of confidence, also passed by the Senate, was meant as a reply to the Opposition protests at Mr Gilani’s presence in the House, to which it feels he has become a stranger after his conviction for contempt by the Supreme Court. The PPP used the absence of the PML-N to push through these measures. However, that particular response has provoked the opposition into moving a resolution calling for four new provinces, South Punjab, Bahawalpur, Hazara and Fata. That means that both major parties have come out in favour of new provinces, which is strange considering the need for national unity at this juncture. It should also be noticed that the PML-N would like to further split the South Punjab province. There is more disunity ahead. At the moment, no one has raised what might well be the most controversial and divisive issue of all, the division of Sindh, where the Muhajirs, in the shape of the MQM, have been accused of wanting a Jinnahpur province for themselves. The PML-N, while it is absorbing the blow that the PPP has launched at it, has not responded with this. Perhaps it realizes that the move, while providing momentary satisfaction, will only undermine national unity.

Quite apart from the invalidity of the resolution passed by the National Assembly, or that moved before it, the controversy following Mr Gilani’s conviction has forced the respective parties to take clear-cut positions, even though insufficient thought seems to have gone into the entire process. The contours of a South Punjab province have yet to be determined, and the other provincialist ghosts in the machine have still to be dealt with. The PPP is under the impression that, in this election year, it can overcome its own record of not solving the people’s problems, as well as Mr Gilani’s conviction, by raising the provincialist slogan. As the PML-N has shown, two can play at that game. This is not to ask the obvious question of how this province is to finance its new army of ministers and bureaucrats. However, both parties need to consider whether what they have done befits national parties, and take appropriate corrective measures.