The Pakistan government is going ahead with its plan to create the new South Punjab province by bifurcating Punjab and would move a bill in the National Assembly, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi announced Wednesday.
Punjab is Pakistan's second largest province by area after Balochistan. It is also the most populated province and politically influential. In the run-up to the 2018 general election, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party led by Imran Khan had promised to bifurcate Punjab province to form South Punjab.
The South Punjab province will comprise Multan, Bahawalpur and Dera Ghazi Khan districts, Qureshi told reporters in Multan, Punjab.
The Punjab Assembly seats will be reduced to 251 from the current 371 while 120 seats have been proposed for the South Punjab Assembly in the bill.
Qureshi said that certain constitutional amendments have to be passed for the formation of the new South Punjab province.
The region will turn into a province when amendments to Articles 59, 51, 1, 106, 158 and 218 of the Constitution are passed.
"The word 'South Punjab' in the first paragraph of Article 1 will be inducted, and the territories that will be part of south Punjab have been named in the proposed bill," he was quoted as saying by the Express Tribune.
"The province will come into being through Article 51, it calls for the separate formation of the assembly. South Punjab will also get representation in the Senate," he said.
On Monday, PTI lawmaker Sami-ul-Hassan Gillani tabled the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2019 before Parliament, calling for the creation of a separate South Punjab province, Geo News reported.
The planned South Punjab province will be the sixth province of Pakistan after Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, Sindh and Gilgit Baltistan.
Qureshi, a senior leader of the ruling PTI, said that the National Assembly Speaker will formulate a special committee for consent on the bill.
"We require co-operation of different parties for a two-thirds majority, said Qureshi.
Qureshi said that he had held a meeting with Pakistan Peoples Party's (PPP) leadership. "I request them to support us as it is in our joint interests and a part of the PTI manifesto."
"We believe it strengthens a federation, and have decided to hold political dialogue with like-minded political parties," he said.
Qureshi also requested the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) to support the bill.
"I am hopeful they will review their attitude over it," he said.
The National Assembly, Pakistan's lower house, has a total 342 seats, which means the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf needs 228 votes to get its way.
The PTI has 157 lawmakers. The Pakistan Muslim League-N has 84 members and the Pakistan Peoples Party has 54 lawmakers in Parliament. There are four independents.
To get the South Punjab bill approved, the PTI would only need the support of the PPP, if the PML-N opts to stay out of the vote count, Geo News reported.
The PPP support will also be needed in the Senate where the party has an upper hand, the report said.
Meanwhile, PML-N Secretary General Ahsan Iqbal said Qureshi was fooling people on the name of South Punjab.
Iqbal said the PML-N had already presented a bill in the National Assembly for the formation of the South Punjab and Bahawalpur provinces. But the bill was opposed by the PTI then, he said.