KARACHI - Proposed by the MQM in the National Assembly, a private bill seeking an amendment to Article 239(4) of the Constitution was branded as a conspiracy to divide Sindh as well as the country by the Save Sindh Committee (SSC), a unification of all nationalist parties, on Saturday.

Issuing a warning to provincial legislators that “voting in support of the 20th amendment would be equated with voting for one unit”, the nationalists called a general strike on January 28.

“All legislators could vote on such an amendment only at their own peril,” asserted the committee, which met with its convener Syed Jalal Mahmood Shah in the chair at Hyder Manzil for a deliberation on the bill moved by the Altaf Hussain-led MQM for the creation of new provinces in the country.

Awami Tehreek President Ayaz Latif Palijo, Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mohaz chief Bashir Khan Qureshi, Sindh Tarqi Passand Party chief Dr Qadir Magsi, Dr Ayub Shar of the Sindh National Front, Awami Jamhori Party Senior Vice-President Hareef Chandio, Sindh Dost Council chief Zamir Ghumro, Riaz Chandio, Haji Shafi Jamote and others attended the meeting.

Interacting with the media, Jalal Shah said that in 1973, the Constituent Assembly had ruled out the creation of new provinces in the light of the experience of one-unit imposed on three provinces by creating West Pakistan province in 1955.

The committee convener, who was flanked by other nationalists, tapped into the history, saying that the Punjab had done away with the separate provincial status of Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan in 1955 by enacting the Establishment of West Pakistan Act 1955, and after a valiant struggle by the people of Sindh, West Pakistan province was abolished in 1970.

“A new constitution was framed in 1973 although no new mandate was taken from the people after the separation of East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, and despite questionable status of the 1973 assembly as a Constituent Assembly, it decided to rule out the creation of new provinces,” the nationalist leader contended. “This power for altering the limits of any province was not conferred on the parliament and remained with the federating units as a residual power under Article 142 of the Constitution.”

The constitution makers had, added Jalal Shah, after ruling out the creation of new provinces, provided that if the limits of the provinces were to be altered, it could not be put to effect unless the provincial assembly concerned passed the bill with a two-third majority.

The nationalist leader claimed that the Article 239(4) was being fraudulently misinterpreted, adding that “it simply speaks about the alteration of the limits of the provinces and not the creation of new provinces”.

The committee meeting observed that the federation consisted of four provinces and if a new federation is envisaged, “a new agreement among the nations is a sine qua non (prerequisite) as with the creation of new constituent units the very basis of the federation will stand changed, including all decision-making process”.

The nationalists said that Sindh was an “indivisible” state that joined the federation on the basis of “cast iron guarantees” envisaged in the Lahore Resolution of 1940, including its right not to be divided in any manner.

They further said if such a conspiracy had been hatched to give the power of creation to the provinces, Sindh must be given the right to decide its own fate.

They insisted that the basic structure of the Constitution could not be changed by usurping the power of the decision about their unity, from the provinces.