LAHORE - As the dormant issue of a separate province for south Punjab raised its head again here yesterday with eight PML-N lawmakers announcing to form their separate group, the report of the Parliamentary Commission on the creation of south Punjab province is gathering dust for the last over five years.

On 28th of January, 2013, the commission had submitted its report with the Prime Minister and the National Assembly Speaker recommending creation of a separate province to address the grievances of the people of south Punjab.

The commission had proposed that the new province could be named as “Bahawalpur-Janoobi Punjab” with its capital in Bahawalpur.

Headed by ex-Senator Farhatullah Khan Babar, Speaker National Assembly Dr Fehmida Mirza had constituted a 20-member commission in June 2012 following a presidential reference calling upon her to initiate the process to amend the Constitution to create a new province. Former President Asif Ali Zardari had also asked the Speaker to constitute a Commission comprising both houses of the Parliament for recommendations on the creation of south Punjab province.

The presidential reference had drawn the attention of the Speaker to resolutions passed by the National and the Punjab assemblies calling for the creation of new provinces. The president had stated that on May 3, 2012, the National Assembly had adopted a resolution in order to “address the grievances and to secure the political, administrative and economic interests of the people of south Punjab.”

The ex-president in his written communication with the Speaker had also referred to a similar resolution passed by the Punjab Assembly on May 9, 2012 demanding of the parliament and the federal government to create a new province as well as revive the provincial status of Bahawalpur.

The commission in its report had also framed recommendations about the geographical boundaries of the new province. It had then suggested that the new province may comprise of the three existing divisions of the Punjab, namely, Multan, Bahawalpur and DI Khan divisions and the two districts of Mianwali and Bhakkar.

The commission also addressed the issues of distribution of resources among the provinces. It had also recommended that Water Accord of 1991 should be revisited to provide for share of the new province.

The commission in its reports had also suggested amendments in eight articles of the Constitution to give effect to the proposal of creating the new province. The parliamentary body also prepared a draft of the constitutional amendment bill in consultation with the Law Division.

It may be mentioned here that the first practical step to create a new province has to be taken by the National Assembly and the Senate of Pakistan as it requires changes in the constitution. Also, the President will not assent to the bill even if passed by both houses of the parliament until it is also passed by the two-thirds majority of the concerned Provincial Assembly.

In the last five years, there has been no demand from any of the political parties to implement the recommendations of the commission on the creation of south Punjab province. The federal government also slept over the issue in the absence of any fresh call for creation of south Punjab province.

Head of the now defunct commission, ex-Senator Farhatullah Babar was not available for comment when The Nation tried to contact him to know if any further progress was made on the matter during the last tenure of the PPP government though it was about to complete its term when the report was submitted.

Former Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid said that there has never been any public demand from southern region of Punjab for creation of a separate province. He believed that it was not the actual issue as the people were more concerned about resolution of their problems like power outages and employment.

Terming it a mere election stunt ahead of the 2018 general elections, Rashid said that these legislators had left the party because they knew it fully well they would not be getting party tickets for the coming elections. “These lawmakers had in fact not voted for the bill restoring Mian Nawaz Sharif as the party head and the leadership was aware of their defection”, he said.