In 2009, President Asif Ali Zardari, in a message to the Punjab Assembly, said he is against any division of Punjab, and Pakistan People’s Party will not let any such conspiracy foster. Also, the very next day, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani ruled out any idea of the creation of more provinces, saying that it would open up a new ‘Pandora’s box’ of problems.
l by Ali Tahir
(January 11, Islamabad, Sri Lanka Guardian) Pre-partition Punjab was a triangular tract that ranged from a part of Indus Sutlej to their to form confluence on the two sides, with base being lower Himalaya hills. Today, in the modern Pakistan, it stretches from Rahim Yar Khan until Attock.
Punjab was divided on religious lines, and so about 60% of the entire Punjab acceded to Pakistan. It has a rich linguistic repertoire with a range of Punjabi dialects including, Majhi, Jhangochi, Pothohari, Saraiki, Jatki, Hindko, Chhachhi, Doabi, and Derewali. Seraiki is one of the dialects of Punjabi, previously known as Multani, and the word has originated from Sauvira, which came to popular usage in the 1960′s.
Coming to the recent calls of division of Punjab, MQM has submitted a bill to the National Assembly, calling for its division on linguistic basis. What may be oblivious to their sight is the fact that Seraiki is only a dialect of Punjabi, like many others, and not a different language in its own rights. Seraiki language (don’t confuse it with Seriaki ‘dialect’ spoken in Punjab) is not spoken in South Punjab, but in interior Sindh, in tribes of Zardari, Jatoi and Pahore are seraiki-speaking tribes.
Considering that the Punjabi Seraiki population is 17%, while Sindh has got 40% Seraiki-speaking people (note the difference-one is dialect, the other is language), where should a Seraiki province be made first? In the 1990′s the MQM had a ‘Muhajir’ province in their manifesto, why not focus on that rather switching concerns to the other side?
The population of Karachi has exceeded 20 million, according to certain estimates, twice the Seraiki population in Punjab. The top priority should be to make Karachi a province itself, because, worsening of the law and order situation over the years, demand such decision to be made, especially considering the strategic importance of the city in terms of its financial output and political sensitivity. Karachi can be made a province on all ethnic, linguistic, administrative, and population grounds, and if this so is done, then MQM wins a majority of seats from Karachi, then why do they insist on dividing Punjab where they have no mandate of the voters? Haven’t Punjabis already divided their land to become a part of the federation of Pakistan?
Another vocal supporter of the division of Punjab and Balochistan was ANP. It wanted a Seraiki province in Punjab and a Pukhtoon province in Balochistan, however isn’t it strange that they are now against the idea of division, why? Primarily because MQM has filed a bill for Hazara province as well, to be carved out of Khyper-Pakhtunkhwa, and there are rumors coming from Malakand that it may assume provincial status. This has worried ANPto a great extent, now that it may have less land to govern if two more provinces are carved out of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
Furthermore, is it not a violation of the constitution of Pakistan, to take up such bill to the national assembly, when the constitution clearly states that the demarcation of provinces will be decided by provincial assemblies alone? Will it not weaken the federation further, if the Center decides on the division of federating units?
And hypothetically speaking, if four more provinces are made, will the treasury of Pakistan be able to afford the expenses of the offices of 16 Chief Ministers, Governors, Secretariats, Chief Secretaries,Provincial Secretaries, Police Chiefs etc. ? Creating new provinces will only add extra burden on a nation already running short of finances, and wouldn’t generate sufficient revenue to contribute to the running of the state.
Supposedly, if the Seraiki province is carved out of Punjab, it will not only lead to an unequal representation in the Senate but Punjab would then have double the number of senators as opposed to the other federating units which might lead to a renewed sense of insecurity in the smaller federating units, who already complain of lesser representation in the National Assembly and of Punjab dominating the national affairs. The creation of new provinces will only intensify our problems by bringing along with it a political turmoil to a society already going through social polarization.
In 2009, President Asif Ali Zardari, in a message to the Punjab Assembly, said he is against any division of Punjab, and Pakistan People’s Party will not let any such conspiracy foster. Also, the very next day, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani ruled out any idea of the creation of more provinces, saying that it would open up a new ‘Pandora’s box’ of problems. It’s strange how, by 2011, PPP has come out as a strong supporter of the division of Punjab. Ironically, it is indeed a tradition here, to distort facts to gain short-term political mileage even if the long-term consequences are disastrous for the country and its institutions.