ISLAMABAD - A report of the Senate Standing Committee on Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs on the 24th Constitutional Amendment Bill, for the purpose of creation of Bahawalpur Janoobi Punjab out of the Punjab, Thursday came before the Senate, but with a note of dissent from senior PPP leader Raza Rabbani who severely criticised the idea.

Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice Chairman Senator Kazim Khan presented the report of the committee that almost endorsed the original bill, except proposing one amendment in Article 239 of the Constitution. Raza Rabbani in his note strongly opposed the idea of creating a new province, saying it was an inappropriate time for the move.

Parliamentary Committee on National Security Chairman Senator Raza Rabbani in his five-page note, as a member of the law committee, submitted to the committee through the chief whip of PPP in the Senate, has said that creation of a province was a historical process, therefore, provinces could not be carved out on the basis of administrative convenience. “This will further aggravate the national, ethnic, linguistic and natural resources questions,” he feared.

He said this was not an appropriate time for the creation of a province as it would be a political slogan for the elections in the regions which claimed to be called a province on the national or ethno-linguistic basis. “And national decisions are based on a firmer reasoning,” he added.

Giving the reasons for calling an inappropriate time, he said the internal political situation was polarised and it was without a strong infrastructure mechanism of the sate and the political parties or society to successfully withstand such change.

Secondly, he said, there were extreme nationalist forces, particularly in Balochistan, that were working for arrangements outside the scheme of the Constitution. Such forces would be encouraged by this move. “Further nationalist forces whose politics has been adversely affected because of the 18th Amendment will get a new impetus,” he viewed.

Rabbani proposed that if creation of the new provinces was based on administrative necessity, the entire federal structure would require a revisit as a result of which there would be a severe political backlash, giving rise to new regional tensions within the country.

He suggested that a detailed study regarding financial sustainability of the new province, its fiscal viability, impact on the federation and its overall impact on the other provinces in terms of the National Finance Commission (NFC) award, was required. "Economically unstable provinces will be a negation of the federalism and the 18th Amendment while the process of devolution would be eroded as these new provinces would look towards Islamabad," he argued.

He also feared that the dominance of Punjab in one form or another would increase in the federal structure as the new province so created would require representation in the Senate. Thus the Senate too would lose its character.

Rabbani said the political thought process on the issue needed to be debated and a national dialogue should be initiated on the new federal dispensation. Creation of administrative infrastructure in terms of new ministries, assembly and the provincial administration would have to be taken in hand, he said. Similarly, the question of redistribution of natural resources of the new province, its assets and liabilities also needed to be addressed while civil secretariat and ancillary staff would be required to be created, he noted.

In the end, he said consolidation of the Constitution, the 18th Amendment and the process of devolution were needed and this was in the interest of the federation.