The PPP has apparently gone ahead with ignoring all the problems afflicting the ordinary man, such as inflation, rising oil prices, secessionism, declining law and order and a subservient foreign policy. Instead it is going ahead with its plan to make an issue of splitting Punjab. This could be seen from the National Assembly Speaker notifying the names of 12 members of both Houses to a commission for the creation of South Punjab and Bahawalpur provinces. Punjab Speaker Rana Iqbal is to recommend two names from his House, and the commission would be complete. Though Speaker Fehmida Mirza has notified the names of PML-N members, its spokesman Senator Pervaiz Rashid said that the party would not accept the commission, and called for a national commission to consider the whole administrative setup of the country.

The parties named to the commission include the PPP allies the ANP, as well as the MQM and the PML-Q. One of the probable causes of conflict is that the latter two have publicly supported the creation of a Hazara province, which the former opposes bitterly. The creation of a South Punjab province would create a precedent for such a province, and the three parties would take positions in the commission which would reflect their intention to champion or oppose such a province. There are other provincial fault-lines which the commission will not be able to paper over if the new provinces are created. The presence of the MQM raises the prospect of an ethnic division of Sindh, with the PPP unable to convince Muhajirs that ethnic boundaries should remain stable in one part of the country, while changeable in another. The JUI-F’s Maulana Ghafoor Haideri may come from the Senate, but he has been an MNA from a largely Pashtun constituency, thus being well acquainted with that province’s Pashtun-province demand.

The best thing that the commission could do would be to recommend that the provinces not be formed. The PPP merely wants to carve out an area where it hopes it will have a majority. However, it should keep in view national interests, not those of the party, while considering such an explosive problem. The irony is that the government lacks the requisite two-thirds majorities needed for such a step. Thus the present measures are mere attempts to distract people’s attention from their real problems to a will o’ the wisp.