Pakistan may have its own BJP in the not-so-distant future. Only in this case, ‘BJP’ would not be abbreviation for a political party but that for a province proposed to be carved out of the existing Punjab. ‘Bahawalpur Janobi Punjab’ is the new name being proposed for the province. Ironically, if translated into English, it will still share its abbreviation with another Indian political party — the BSP or Bahawalpur South Punjab.
A constitutional amendment seeking creation of the province was finalised on Saturday and is likely to be tabled in Parliament this week. As per details available, the province will have one third of the districts of Punjab and consequently a third of the share of seats in the National Assembly. Also, a third of seats in the Punjab assembly will go to the new province.
A highly contentious issue, the bifurcation of Punjab is an electoral plank of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) as it has been a long standing demand of the people from the southern parts of Pakistan’s largest and most populous province.
Moreover, PPP’s seats from Punjab are in the Seraiki-speaking southern part of the province which includes some of the least developed parts of the country.
The bifurcation of Punjab will not be easy as the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) — which rules the province — has been boycotting the parliamentary committee proceedings on the premise that the PPP was resorting to strong-arm tactics to gain political advantage. And, even among the members who attended the proceedings, there is no consensus on the capital of the new province. When the matter was put to vote within the committee, both Multan and Bahawalpur polled equal number of votes.
Though the PML (N) has been boycotting the committee’s meetings, it had spearheaded the unanimous resolution in the Punjab Assembly for the trifurcation of Punjab as opposed to the PPP’s proposal to bifurcate it.
The resolution called for the creation of a South Punjab province and restoration of provincial status to Bahawalpur. The presidential reference to the committee also took this on board but the committee in its final decision sought to find a middle path between the Punjab Assembly’s resolution and PPP’s original plan by naming the southern Punjab province after Bahawalpur.
Already many a party with stakes in the region has expressed reservations about various aspects of the proposal, making the possibility of the new province taking shape ahead of the elections — due in summer — remote.