The Government of Pakistan moves the South Punjab Summary. According to the summary, the government seeks the cabinet’s approval to amend the constitution to split Punjab.
The incumbent government has circulated a summary for the cabinet’s approval to amend the Constitution in order to split the Punjab province and create a fifth province of Pakistan amid serious political crisis and questions over its majority in the National Assembly.
The South Punjab province – proposed to comprise of three divisions – will have 56 seats of the National Assembly and the new provincial assembly will have 119 seats, according to the draft bill moved to create the fifth province of Pakistan.
The Ministry of Law and Justice on Thursday circulated the Constitution Amendment Bill 2022 for the approval of the federal cabinet for the creation of a separate new province comprising Multan, Bahawalpur, and Dera Ghazi Khan divisions called South Punjab, according to the cabinet’s summary.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has chosen to seek the cabinet’s nod through circulation instead of bringing the summary in the regular cabinet meeting for discussion and then approval. The move appears to be a political gimmick, as the government did not have a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly to get the Constitution amended.
The political tensions are heightened and the government is standing on a fragile footing, as it also remains unable to even convene a regular meeting of the federal cabinet for the last one month. However, amid this crisis, Premier Imran has sought the cabinet’s approval to amend the Constitution that needs the support of two out of every three members of the National Assembly.
After around 24 members of the National Assembly belonging to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) have ditched PM Imran, the government has been struggling to ensure its majority with 172 votes on the day of the no-confidence move. The prime minister has been using the carrot and sticks policy to lure back the disgruntled MNAs.
Interestingly, the Punjab Assembly has not passed any resolution with a two-thirds majority for the creation of a new province.
A senior cabinet member told The Express Tribune that the summary has been moved on the desire of Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi who claimed before the law ministry that Punjab had passed a resolution in the past for the creation of South Punjab province.
He said that the decision to seek the cabinet’s approval through circulation has been taken by the PM office.
Article 239 (4) of the Constitution 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.”
According to the draft bill, the existing members of the National Assembly and the Senate from Punjab and the existing members of the provincial assembly of Punjab will complete their respective tenures.
The political, administrative, and financial measures and necessary steps under the electoral laws will be taken to complete the formation of the new province of South Punjab before the general elections are held after the 2018 general elections.
The government has proposed to amend Article 51 of the Constitution to the extent of changing representation of the Punjab province and giving representation to the new province in the National Assembly.
While the total assembly seats are proposed to remain unchanged, it has been proposed to reduce the seats of Punjab from 173 to 117. The general seats in Punjab are proposed at 95 as against 141. The women’s seats are proposed to be reduced from 32 to 22.
The new South Punjab province will have 56 seats, including 46 general seats.
The amendments have also been proposed in Article 59 of the Constitution to increase seats in the Senate from 96 to 119. The non-Muslim seats in all provinces are proposed to be increased from four to five.
According to another amendment, of the members elected by the provincial assembly of the new South Punjab province, seven will retire in March 2024 and seven in March 2027.
Article 106 of the Constitution is proposed to be amended for creating room for the South Punjab Assembly. The new assembly will have 119 members, including 95 directly elected by the people. The seats of the Punjab provincial assembly are proposed to be reduced from 371 to 252. These include 202 directly contested seats.
Article 175A of the Constitution is proposed to be amended for the appointment of the chief justice and judges of the South Punjab High Court. The chief justices of all the four provincial high courts and the Islamabad High Court will also be members of the commission.
The high court of South Punjab will have its principal seat in Multan. The South Punjab High Court shall have a bench in Bahawalpur, according to the draft bill. The Election Commission of Pakistan will also have one member from South Punjab.
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