With introducing a bill seeking the creation of South Punjab and Bahawalpur provinces through Rana Sanaullah in the National Assembly (NA), Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) is trying to cash on political opportunities in front of it. The bill served the purpose, as the house was a divided one soon after the introduction of the bill in the NA. And the division was what Rana Sanaullah wanted to achieve. To the surprise of many, the parliamentary leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Malik Amir Dogar’s argument for the creation of one province in the form of South Punjab not only faced opposition from his coalition partners but also from within his rank and file.

It is true that there is a critical voice for the creation of Bahawalpur province and the members in the parliament from the region were representing this in the house the other day. However, the need is to critically evaluate the suggestion of bifurcating the whole area in two provinces, i.e., South Punjab and Bahawalpur provinces. But before saying anything else, it is clear that even PML-N is not serious about pursuing the issue wholeheartedly. It was a move to vex not only the present government but also shrewd move to gather support for itself in the next general elections.

Now coming to the division of the whole region into separate federating units, it is essential to keep in mind that the demand for South Punjab province – while a difficult proposition – made sense; the demand had existed for decades. Furthermore, South Punjab already operates as a separate administrative unit for most of the government departments.

The speeches and arguments of the members belonging to Bahawalpur and adjoining areas indicated that they were relying on emotions while making the demand for Bahawalpur province instead of presenting the case on merits. Also, there is no administrative or ethno linguistic reason for dividing South Punjab into two halves. Had the representative had arguments along these lines, it would have been not easy to reject their claims.

Also, the demand for Bahawalpur province stems from a historical and emotional quirk, that the land used to be a princely state and that people of Bahawalpur do not want to live under the Multan throne, nothing more. Nevertheless, Mr Sanaullah succeeded in what PML-N wanted to achieve – a divide in the ruling party. PML-N succeeded in turning the trump card of more provinces that PTI used in last general elections over PTI’s head. PTI can only undo the damage by working day night for creation of South Punjab as a separate province.