President Asif Ali Zardari, in his visit to Multan on Saturday, assured the PPP parliamentarians of the region that a separate province of Seraiki would be created in South Punjab before the general elections. He advised Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to conduct decisive dialogue with different political parties in this connection. Since, he believed, a great deal of injustice had been done to the people living in the Seraiki area, he would ensure that they were given a fair deal; for dangerous repercussions would ensue if they were denied their rights. Like the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, they would get their identity, he held out a firm assurance. The President’s address also targeted the Punjab’s PML-N leadership whom he called, borrowing the terminology from the now disgraced PPP stalwart Babar Awan, Takht-e-Lahore, where Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif was holding “several ministries” while he (Mr Zardari) had voluntarily ceded power to the Prime Minister.

Oddly enough, in actual practice there is no evidence that he has handed over the powers of Chief Executive to Mr Gilani to which he is entitled under the Constitution. Besides, though being a titular non-partisan head representing the federation, Mr Zardari has failed to put a stop to his involvement in political matters. In fact, his participation in the campaign for a Seraiki province and attack on a mainstream political party in power in Punjab, proves his partisan behaviour. Mr Zardari should know that all this is constitutionally questionable. He has taken up the cudgels on behalf of the Seraiki province, which have grave implications for the future of Pakistan. A country, already suffering from narrow religious and regional thinking pointing to sharp divisions in society, looks up to the ruling leadership to create conditions that should spread the message of unity. Another province would give a wrong signal, particular at this time; other disgruntled elements elsewhere in the country, and there is no dearth of them, would come up with their own demands for separate units. Apart from setting off a fissiparous trend, the move would put still more burden on the economy.

The Multan visit, according to the President’s own reported statement, was intended to lend support to the Prime Minister who, it is no secret, was under increasing pressure not only for his own indictment in contempt of court case, but also for accusations against his sons, Abdul Qadir Gilani and Ali Musa Gilani. Going by the unalterable laws and traditions of a democratic system of governance, the President has not only no business to give public support to those whose cases are being heard by a court of law, but also no right to take part in any political activity. A democratic head of state is universally known to be a symbol of unity and an example of obedience to law and constitution. Mr Zardari needs to have a close look at his activities to see whether he is living up to these norms.