Constitutional amendments needed to form new province: Qureshi

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Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Wednesday said that certain constitutional amendments were needed for the formation of the new southern Punjab province.

“Southern Punjab province will consist of Multan, Bahawalpur and Dera Ghazi Khan,” Qureshi said while addressing a press conference.

He said the Punjab Assembly seats would eventually be decreased to 251 with the amendments proposed in the constitutional amendment bill, and added that 120 seats for southern Punjab Assembly had also been proposed in the bill.

“The region will turn into a province when amendments to Articles 59, 51, 1, 106, 158 and 218 of the constitution will be undertaken… The word ‘South Punjab’ in the first paragraph of Article 1 will be inducted, and the territories that will be part of southern Punjab have been named in the proposed bill.”

He said the province would come into being through Article 51, which calls for a separate formation of the assembly. “Southern Punjab will also get representation in the Senate,” he said, adding that the new province would have its own high court and chief justice.

The foreign minister further said that the speaker would formulate a special committee for consent on the bill. “We require cooperation of different parties for a two-thirds majority,” said Qureshi.

Qureshi said that he had held a meeting with the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leadership. “I requested them to support us as it is in our joint interests and part of the PTI manifesto,” he said, adding that he received a “positive response” from the PPP.

“I’ve suggested to jointly move forward with southern Punjab. However, the PPP has its own stance regarding the new province,” he said, adding that the matter would be discussed into the next session with PPP leaders Khursheed Shah, Naveed Qamar and Raja Pervaiz Ashraf. “We believe it strengthens a federation, and have decided to hold political dialogue with likeminded political parties,” he said. “PTI has a stance that the province will make the Centre stronger, however, we are not willing to win all credit of this development and want to share its credit to all. I would like to thank all the people who took part in finalisation of the bill’s draft. And I am also thankful for Punjab Chief Minister [Usman Buzdar], who had publically announced for a share of southern Punjab in next budget.”

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, and claimed that various persons in the PML-N were in favour of southern Punjab.