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May 19, 2019

PTI-PML-N rift may foil South Punjab province move


May 19, 2019

MULTAN: Though the PTI has initiated a drive for the south Punjab province, yet it is feared that the party will hardly gain two-thirds majority for the desired constitutional amendments, The News has observed.

PTI senior vice-chairman Makhdoom Shah Qureshi is initiating the whole drive for south Punjab province with consent of Prime Minister Imran Khan. He has held meetings with legislators and MPAs from south Punjab to get their support. However, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz strength in Punjab Assembly has been more relevant than any other party, but the party has serious differences with PTI.

The PTI is making efforts for bringing PML-N on the same page for the creation of south Punjab province. Political pundits observed that PML-N support to PTI’s constitutional amendments would be a miracle. The PML-N had already passed out a resolution for two provinces including south Punjab and Bahawalpur provinces from the Punjab Assembly.

Now the PML-N has submitted a fresh resolution for two provinces in National Assembly, they said. Senior journalist Masihullah Khan Jampuri observed that it was better option for PTI taking PML-N and PPP into confidence before moving into constitutional amendments. Prime Minister Imran Khan has been outspoken, lacking with political temperament and this attitude would keep PML-N away from backing the constitutional amendments, he observed.

Constitutional experts opined the PTI has to face real challenge in the Punjab Assembly where the party would require two thirds majority for constitutional amendments. The Clause 4 of the Article 239 of 1973 Constitution is the prime hurdle in bringing desired amendments in the constitution.

Former dictator Gen Zia had amended the clause in Article 239, which bound the National Assembly, Senate cannot amend the constitution without the endorsement of relevant provincial assembly, experts said. The Clause 4 of the Article 239 says: “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 total membership”.

The Punjab Assembly statistics say that total Punjab house consists of 371 members including the government has the strength of 191 MPAs such as PTI 181, PML-Q 10 and independents 4. On the other hand the opposition parties have the strength of 174 members including PML-N 166, PPP 7, PRHP 1. The Punjab PTI government requires two third majority i.e. 248 members of the total house for amending the constitution. This herculean task for PTI to achieve the target of two thirds majority (248) members. The only option is left for PTI and PPP first to amend, repeal the clause 4 of the article 239, freely amending the constitution without provincial assembly restriction. But the PPP would not stand with PTI in amending or repealing the clause 4 because it would create a soft room for the division of Sindh into Karachi, Hyderabad and interior Sindh provinces. Former justice Habibullah Shakir explained the procedure for constitutional amendment and said that first the Punjab Assembly would move a motion to President of Pakistan after passing with two thirds majorities. Then the President would send it to the National Assembly. If the National Assembly passes the bill with two thirds majority, then the President would send it to the Senate.

If the Senate passes the bill with two thirds majority then the Senate sends back to the President and he will sign the bill and forward to Punjab Assembly. This would call Act of Parliament. However, the situation is quite different from Punjab.

The National Assembly statics say the house consists of 342 members and PTI needs at least 228 members to achieve the task of two third majority. Currently, PTI has the strength of 156 members in NA while MMA has 16 members, PML-N 85, PPP 54, PML 5, BAP 5, GDA 3, MQM 7, BNP 4, AML 1, ANP 1, JWP 1, independents 4. The votes of PTI, PPP, PML, BAP, GDA and MQM, are estimated to 231 against 228 of two thirds majority and PTI can easily gain the target of amendments but the party has to face a great challenge in Punjab Assembly.

The PPP is the pioneer in drafting the demand for creation of south Punjab province. The party would back all sincere efforts being taken in the way of creation of south Punjab province, PPP insiders said.

Talking to journalists in Multan Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that PPP had responded positively in amending the constitution and he is meeting with senior PPP leadership Khurshid Shah, Syed Naveed Qamar and Raja Pervez Ashraf.

However, he did not quote meeting with former Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani. Gilani was the first person to take stand and raise the voice for creation of south Punjab province in his address at a public meeting in Tehsil Jalalpur Pirwala in capacity of Prime Minister. Shah Mehmood Qureshi asked PML-N leadership to review her demand of two provinces and support constitutional amendments for south Punjab province. He said that PML-N demand for Bahawalpur province of three districts is not feasible. He said that he was meeting with MNAs from all parties in the house. Former MPA Babu Nafis Ansari of PPP said that if PTI was merely playing politics in the name of south Punjab province.

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