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Its speakers are as sweet as their language. People who speak the Saraiki language are jewels spread across all provinces of Pakistan. However, they are never compensated for their sacrifices. They are living in far-flung areas of each province, and thus they are neglected in Sindh and Punjab and are far from the power centre of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Therefore, if they think a new province of their own is a remedy for their problems, it is their right to ask for a province. If this case is presented in a proper way and at a proper forum, and the majority agrees to it, we all have to respect their demand.


In the same way if the majority of the residents of Hazara wish to create a province of their own, no one needs to resist that. Punjab and Balochistan are so large, the former in terms of population and the latter in terms of territory, that the present federal structure cannot solve the social, political, economic and administrative problems of the residents of the two provinces. However, the question is when and how to create new provinces and what is the proper forum for the resolution of the question of new provinces.


First we have to consider when the task should begin and how it should be carried out so that it comes to a successful and acceptable conclusion. Even the noblest task at the wrong time yields negative results. The current efforts for the creation of Hazara and Saraiki provinces are far from being methodical or result-oriented, to say the least.


At present our army is engaged both in the protecton of the boarders and in the resolution of internal issues. There is extreme tension between the civil and military leaderships, and the elections are increasingly seen as imminent. Lawlessness is such all over Pakistan, from Khyber to Karachi, that the real law in the country these days is the bullet. In such a situation the demand for new provinces is perilous, because there has been no homework and there is no consensus on the issue.


As to how we should go forward, the question to ask is: what should be basis of new provinces: history, language, population or area? India and Afghanistan both created new provinces but on administrative basis. Baba Haider Zaman claims that he wants a province on administrative basis. However, the initial demand was based on the linguistic identity of the residents. In the same way, the Saraiki province was demanded on linguistic basis, but now the MQM is supporting both demands in the National Assembly. The support is self-contradictory.


If the MQM favours new provinces on linguistic basis, why does it support Hazara? Similarly, if its support is based on the administrative element, how can it support a Saraiki province? In the same way, if Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is in favour of new provinces on the basis of language, why does he not support linguistic movements in Sindh and Balochistan? The formula valid for Punjab must also be valid for Sindh and Balochistan. The demand for Bahawalpur and Fata provinces is far stronger than that for a Hazara province. Therefore, Gilani has to announce the creation of Bahawalpur province before a Hazara province is created.


The question of a proper forum is more important than many people seem to believe. Nothing can lead to success unless the effort has been made thought a proper forum. The proper and legal way for the creation of a new province is this: the request should first be tabled in a provincial assembly and, upon approval by the assembly, be forwarded to the National Assembly. However, the MQM chose to initiate the move in the National Assembly. If any person or party feels that this legal way is too long to follow and pursue, the alternative forum is the Constitutional Amendments Committee.


If the MQM and the PPP are serious regarding the matter of new provinces they must add that issue to the agenda of the 18th Amendment. But the two parties and the representative of Hazara in the committee, Sardar Mehtab Ahmed Khan, did not utter a single word on the issue. Only the PQMAP of Mehmood Achakzai raised the issue of new provinces in that committee. It is obvious that the MQM is supporting new provinces only to gain political mileage and the PPP is doing this to irritate Nawaz Sharif.


New provinces are the need of the time. They must be created. But it must be noted that if Punjab is divided on linguistic basis, Sindh and Balochistan have to be divided on the same basis. If the MQM demands the Hazara and Saraiki provinces, by same token Asfandyar Wali Khan may demand a separate province for Pakhtuns living in Karachi. And Nawaz Sharif may go for the demand of Bahawalpur province. This kind of politics seems to have no end.


So the best way to solve a problem in a civilised and proper way is to avoid doing something only for gaining political mileage. All such demands should be routed through the Constitutional Amendments Committee, which can form a special commission for the purpose. Such a commission could be assigned the task of working out a consensus formula acceptable to all.


The committee has the reputation of solving the most sensitive national issues. The only subject that was leaked to the public and resulted in a debate was the naming of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. This led to heated arguments and produced unpleasant results. The creation of new provinces is a serious and sensitive issue that demands efforts by experts. The issue must be handed over to them and not be turned into it’s a public debate. Once the experts come out with a agreeable formula to be presented to the public so that an open debate could start on the question. This is not a political issue that should be used for political mileage. If the matter is abused the results could be dangerous.


The writer works for Geo TV. Email: saleem. safi@janggroup.com.pk