Grinding political axes
For three consecutive days, the issue of creating new provinces has acted as a divisive matter in the NA. On Thursday again, the proceedings were marred by protests and slogans which turned the house into a fish market. The unruly debate revealed sharp cleavages within the ruling coalition on the question. While so far the point under discussion had been the creation of a Seraiki and a Hazara province, demands were made to give Pothohar and Fata provincial status also. Those indulging in fuming and fretting never gave a thought to the big question whether NA was the right forum to decide the issue.
It was noted that MQM which was the first to raise the issue and remained in the forefront of the fray has never won a single parliamentary seat from the Seraiki area and not even a Union Council seat in Hazara. Still it attacked the opponents of the demand most scathingly. Curiously, while it has doggedly supported the creation of Hazara as a separate federal unit it has opposed the division of Karachi despite its being many times more populous. This has led the leader of the opposition among numerous others to suspect a hidden agenda behind the demand.
In certain cases, it might be necessary to change the administrative status quo on grounds of ethnic divisions or administrative needs. The carving out of new provinces, however, is a highly divisive and volatile issue as it involves bifurcation of large sections of population which have lived together for centuries. Peddling half-baked plans may arouse fears and suspicions and give birth to strong or even irrational reactions that can destabilise the system. The issue must not, therefore, be used for politicking. Most of all, there is a need to follow the constitutional provisions while seeking the creation of a new province. Those who are trying to agitate the issue on the wrong forum, need to be reminded that the process for seeking a new province starts from the provincial assemblies and not the NA. The proponents of a new province have to create the necessary consensus instead of resorting to methods that would promote dissension and cause social strife.