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Red faces over PA move against new provinces

Habib Khan Ghori

KARACHI, Jan 20: An astutely drafted resolution targeting the PPP’s stated stand on and the MQM’s ambitious campaign to carve out a Seraiki province from within Punjab almost created an embarrassing situation for the two major parties in the Sindh Assembly but the chair on the law minister’s advice adjourned the session on Friday.

With two weekend holidays, the two parties now have ample time to devise a strategy to counter the resolution, moved by the National People’s Party, opposing any amendment to Article 239(4) of the Constitution as proposed through a private bill recently moved by the MQM in the National Assembly.

 

Speaker Nisar Ahmed Khuhro advised NPP lawmaker Masroor Jatoi to table his resolution on Monday, when the house will reassemble after the weekend.

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement bill seeks the amendment with specific reference to Seraiki and Hazara provinces to be
carved out from Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, respectively.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and the Pakistan People’s Party leadership of Punjab strongly favour the creation of Seraiki province and the party did not oppose the MQM bill when it was tabled in the National Assembly.

However, the NPP resolution — initially signed by Masroor Jatoi and Arif Mustafa Jatoi — was supported by dozens of PPP lawmakers who opposed any amendment to Article 239(4), insisting that the clause was aimed at giving strong constitutional protection to the borders of Sindh.

Realising that the possible passage of the resolution would severely damage the PPP stand and the MQM bill on the issue in the National Assembly, Law Minister Ayaz Soomro advised the chair to adjourn the session when his opinion was sought.

Without opposing the resolution, the minister also suggested to the chair to defer the resolution till Monday “since it’s time for the house to rise for Friday prayers”.

Article 239(4) of the 1973 Constitution reads: “A bill to amend the Constitution which would have the effect of altering the limits of a province shall not be presented to the President for assent unless it has been passed by the provincial assembly of that province by the votes of not less than two-thirds of its membership.”

Most PPP lawmakers from Sindh, as well as several of its Sindh-based allies and nationalist parties, apprehend that any amendment to Article 239(4) may eventually lead to the division of Sindh, although the MQM does not currently seek the creation of a new province from within Sindh.

Before calling it a day, the speaker said that the law minister and Khalid Ahmad of the MQM also wanted to move their resolutions while Imran Zafar Leghari wanted to follow the order of the day by taking up his adjournment motion but none of
the business could be taken up for want of time.

However, Masroor Jatoi started reading out his resolution and a majority of members supported it amid the thumping of the desk.

The resolution reads: “This assembly recommends to the Sindh Government to inform the Federal Government, National Assembly and other Federating Units that it is opposed to any amendment to Article 239(4) which was specially included in the constitution by its founders and signatories including Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, Qaim Ali Shah, Hakim Ali Zardari, Makhdoom Muhammad Zaman Talib-ul-Mola, Atta Muhammad Marri and Abdul Hafeez Pirzada to give strong constitutional protection to the borders of Sindh, and that any steps which may facilitate the future break up of Sindh will never be allowed either by this assembly or the people of Sindh.”

The signatories to the resolution were Imran Zafar Leghari, Mir Ghalib Domki, Dr Ahmad Ali Shah, Mir Muhammad Hasan Talpur, Anwar Ahmed Khan Mahar, Haji Munawwar Ali Abbasi, Sardar Jam Tamachi, Nusrat Sehar Abbasi, Nawab Taimur Talpur, Sherjeel Memon, Pitember Sehwani, Imdad Pitafi, Fayyaz Butt and Dr Sikander Shoro.

The Dawn: January 21, 2012

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