The demand for the creation of a new province in south Punjab is a peculiar one. For the most part of the political calendar the issue remains buried in obscure regional papers and is limited to academic conversations in select dining rooms. However, whenever the general election comes around the issue is raised to the status of a ‘national talking point’, and parties – from regional ones to national ones – start making noise for the creation of a new province. Once the election is over and the chips have fallen where they may, the issue returns to the back burner, to be dusted off and brought up again once another election rolls around.

Despite this pattern having been repeated time and again, the issue still carries sizeable political traction and demands attention from most stakeholders. The recent ‘defections’ from the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) and the formation of the South Punjab Province Front may in essence be a political stunt from career independent politicians, but it has created enough waves in the political atmosphere to demand attention from the PML-N. Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has been another historic supporter of the cause, albeit in the same pragmatic electoral sense as the rest of them.

Hence, Prime Minister Shaihid Khaqqan Abbasi’s invitation to all political parties to a dialogue to “reach a consensus on the issue of creation of new provinces in accordance with the demands of the people of Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan” is a welcome one. The demands may carry very little weight – considering the problems associated with the creation of the new province can be simply solved with a better administrative setup and development projects – but engaging with the stakeholders is important nonetheless. It is better if the problem is laid to rest for good – hopefully with this unnecessary demand refuted with reason.