The highly controversial parliamentary commission that the National Assembly Speaker constituted with the mandate to dissect Punjab into more than once province met at Islamabad on Tuesday and chose Senator Farhatullah Babar (PPP) as its Chairman. Apart from the refusal of the largest opposition Party PML-N, the same party governing Punjab, to nominate its members to the commission for substantive reasons, the criticism coming from within the saner circles of the PPP renders the very formation of the commission questionable. As it was holding its first meeting, Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani (PPP) went on record warning the protagonists of creating more governing units that the move would prove dangerous for the integrity of the country; instead, there was need, he said, for strengthening the existing federating units rather than tearing them apart. Rightly sensing it was a ploy by the PPP-led setup to divert attention from the people’s problems, Nawab Raisani recalled the painful loadshedding the people were being made to face and urged his own leadership to focus their attention to provide them relief.

From another end of the country that is affected by the move i.e. Punjab, some PPP legislators alleged that their ruling PML-N colleagues dealt them blows, as they were demanding of the Speaker to nominate two members to the commission as required by the NA Speaker. The Punjab Assembly witnessed chaotic scenes, punctuated with anti-provincial government slogans, for two consecutive days, Monday and Tuesday, rendering the task of the Speaker next to impossible in taking up the business of the day. Nevertheless, Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal persisted and elicited the approval of the House, with a show of hands, of a resolution refusing to acknowledge the validity of the commission before proroguing the Assembly sine die.

PML-N’s opposition to the commission is based on rational grounds. Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, citing the example of India asked for the formation a national commission to examine the possibility of carving more administrative units out of the country as a whole. As another option, he proposed that half of the strength of the present commission should be from the province. Considering that it is Punjab’s fate that is being decided, the demand is quite justified.

In any case, whatever the arguments for or against the division of Punjab, the issue ought to be seen in the context of the serious implications it would have for the country. Piloting a move just to serve shallow self-interests of the party, ignoring the grave consequences it entails, would be an unforgivable disservice to Pakistan, even if it chimes in with local sentiments. The PPP should lend an ear to the counsel of one of its stalwarts, Chief Minister Raisani, and give up the harrowing prospects of further weakening the country at a time when forces hostile to us are knocking at the door. The nation at this moment badly needs unity and strength.