in the upper house
correspondents covering Pakistan prefer to stay in Islamabad; their reports
mostly about horrific terrorist activities, corruption in government and an
effort to understand the culture. In the past ten years, most of these
reporters from different known international media outlets have also penned
books about Pakistan, highlighting almost the same subjects. Pakistanis,
abroad and at home, feel uneasy about such accounts and often criticise the
work claiming that there’s more to the country than just this.
But one outsider travelled
to Karachi, looked beneath the surface and found a complex, ever-expanding
city teeming with life and full of untold stories. In this case, this
outsider is a thorough professional who breathed Karachi for many years.
Steve Inskeep is co-host of Morning Edition, the most widely-heard radio news
programme in the United States. The show is aired on National Public Radio
network, also known as NPR. He has won a National Headliner Award for
investigating a military raid that went wrong in Afghanistan. There are
numerous other accolades to his credit as well.
There’s a famous Chinese
curse “may you live in interesting times”. Steve Inskeep survived these
interesting times, living in Karachi and then putting those down in his book
“Instant City: Life and Death in Karachi”, published by The Penguin
Group. His book is a crime novel, an urban planning cautionary tale and a
rich account of one of the world’s most challenging ‘instant cities’.
He has managed to capture the essence of the modern and the traditional
outlook of the city.
The 284-page book carries
exclusive interviews of respected Karachiites that one feels attached to, and
details that make one wish to live that city, once again.
Steve Inskeep found that
the city of Karachi suffers from being too interesting, sometimes to its
detriment. His choice to stay in Karachi instead of Islamabad might be
because of his professional assignment, as he was covering the Wall Street
Journal reporter Daniel Pearl’s murder trial. The book essentially is about
Karachi — the city, its people and their lives.
TNS got a chance to sit
with Steve Inskeep and find out more about his love for the city and of
course the book.
TNS: How did you come to
Steve Inskeep: I first
started going to Karachi after 9/11. I covered the war in Afghanistan and
passed through Pakistan on the way there, then returned to Pakistan to report
on that country. The first story that I covered in Karachi was the court
proceedings for the killer of Daniel Pearl, which obviously didn’t portray
Karachi in a positive light. I began exploring other stories in the city,
which were also tragic stories but began to give me a sense of the richness
of the place. I loved looking around at some of the old colonial architecture
and some of the newer constructions and gradually began growing more and more
interested in the way the city was expanding.
TNS: Why did you wind up in
Karachi when foreign correspondents prefer Islamabad?
SI: I have travelled in
other parts of Pakistan. I have been in Lahore, Peshawar, some parts of the
tribal areas, Bajaur. I spent time in Islamabad as well as Faisalabad. What
drew me to Karachi was the sheer scale of the place. It is a place that has
been studied by smart people but has not been studied as much as it deserves
to be. And we were interested not just in Pakistan but in the development and
the urbanisation of the developing world. Karachi is a spectacular example of
that. It is a city that just has more diversity; more economic diversity,
more ethnic diversity, more linguistic diversity and in many ways more
conflict diversity than any other city in Pakistan. It’s probably the most
interesting city in the country.
TNS: You have mentioned
ethnic divisions in Karachi. Do you think there is a problem with that?
Should the differences be put aside?
SI: I think the ethnic and
religious divisions could be the greatest strength of the city. You have a
Hindu community, you have a Christian community. If citizens were shown to be
treated equally and welcomed into the community regardless of their religion,
Hindus and Christians would become ambassadors for Pakistan in fact. People
would be forced to think of Pakistan in a different way. In the same way, the
incredible ethnic and linguistic diversity of the country can help bring the
country together. People suggest that Pakistan is not one country, that
perhaps there should be several countries. The one pace that makes that
impossible, the nail that holds the country together is Karachi because this
is the place where people have mixed to a greater degree. That mixture had
been tragic in many ways. It has led to great violence but it can lead to
TNS: What compelled you to
write this book? The research is incredible, how did you come about it?
SI: I love cities. I have
covered cities in different parts of the world for more than 20 years, here
in the United States and places like Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan and a
number of other places as well, like Nigeria and Egypt. I think there are a
lot of issues that sometimes get overlooked. For the news events that we
report everyday there’s all this activity boiling beneath the surface. You
have all these millions of people who are moving from the countryside to
cities all around the world. They are seeking an opportunity; they are
seeking a job that pays a few dollars or a few hundred rupees a day. They are
seeking anything to make their lives a little bit better and because there
are so many millions of them. It’s one of the most powerful forces that is
reshaping the world today. And I wanted to find one place that would
symbolise many of these gigantic trends and gigantic conflicts that are
shaping the world we live in.
About research, I was lucky
that Pakistanis are so hospitable. And if this book is good, credit goes to
the people of Karachi who threw open their lives to me. So many people would
drop what they were doing, take me around, show me things and offer me
information and tell me stories. There seemed to be so many people who were
eager to tell their stories, who felt that it was important that it be known
and there were a lot of people who were significant figures in Karachi who
have never been interviewed by journalists or certainly not by a Western
journalist. They grabbed that opportunity and I was able to learn a great
deal very quickly. I would go to the city for a short time, meet people and
get the names of more people and meet them, who would bring more names and
take me to more places in the city.
TNS: What lessons can
developing nations learn from Karachi’s explosive growth?
SI: One of the ways that
Karachi is symbolic of the great deal of the developing world is the way
there is so much of an informal economy, and there are so many informal or
illegal settlements. The kachi abadis of Karachi have their equivalents,
rough equivalents in Rio de Janeiro, or Nairobi, or parts of many cities in
China. All around the world people are living in the formal as well as the
I think the informal
economy is probably so pervasive in countries like Pakistan that it has
become the normal economy. The unusual or the formal economy is for people
who have regular jobs with some kind of benefits and rules that apply. There
is no doubt in my mind that the illegal settlements contribute to Karachi’s
TNS: Who do you think is
running Karachi? What do you think are the groups or parties that are
SI: Without labeling anyone
let us talk about the facts. There is a history of the MQM battling with
other political parties and other ethnic groups and a lot of people have been
killed. Now it’s very rare that there is a good court record of this,
because often no one is arrested, and the MQM will argue that very often they
are acting in self-defense, that they would not do anything wrong except
defend their rights. Other groups will say the same things. I am not in a
position to answer who’s right or wrong, but it’s clear that it’s a
dangerous thing to have political parties that are based solely on ethnic
identity. That encourages people not to trust each other, not to mediate, not
to work together. The challenge is to reach across ethnic lines and have
parties that are based on ideas, hopefully good ideas.
TNS: You write that Karachi
has suffered “an overdose of history”. What do you mean by that?
SI: When I say that Karachi
has suffered an overdose of history, I simply mean there have been far too
many dramatic conflicts. Cities are where people ideally come together to
debate, to share ideas, to trade with each other, to learn from each other,
to improve their lives. Cities grow because people understand that lives can
be better there, and in fact life is better for many people in Karachi than
it was in the places from which they came when they migrated. But if you have
too much conflict, too much politics, too much dramatic conflict over really
small stakes, you miss those large opportunities.
writer is Jang/Geo correspondent in Washington.
On January 5, 2012, Saeed
Ahmed Khan, district president of Awami National Party (ANP), was killed in
an attack on his house in the Metroville area of SITE Town in Karachi.
Belonging to Manja village of Tehsil Kabal, Swat, he was an influential
political figure in both Swat and Karachi. One of the attackers was shot dead
by a police constable assigned to Saeed Khan's security while four others
managed to flee from the scene.
militants hiding in Karachi are behind Khan's killing," Saifullah, head
of Nekpikhel Qaumi Jirga, Swat, claims confidently, adding that the attacker
killed in encounter on the occasion was a Taliban commander identified as
Aminullah, who is a resident of Totano Bandai. "Aminullah was a fugitive
living in Karachi," he tells TNS.
Khan was not the first
target of Swati militants hiding in Karachi. They have selectively killed
dozens of elders and political figures of Swat who were travelling to or
living in Karachi, TNS has learnt.
Following the military
operation in Swat, a large number of militants belonging to Tehreek-e-Taliban
Pakistan (TTP), locally headed by Maulana Fazlullah, went underground and
shifted to different parts of the country including Karachi. More than 5
million Pashtuns live in Karachi, a city with a population of about 18
million, where it is very easy for militants to find sanctuaries, security
The low-profile members or
simple sympathizers have fled to Karachi and majority of them have shaved
their beards and cut their long hair. A large number of such people work
there as petty labourers, but some of them are waiting for the right time to
settle their scores with their rivals in the city, experts believe.
"Taking advantage of
the ongoing ethnic violence in the city, the militants kill their rivals and
in most cases the police consider these killings as result of ethnic
violence," says a Karachi-based ANP leader, requesting anonymity. He
adds that the number of such killings is not more than 30 but all the killed
were members of anti-Taliban peace committees, leaders of ANP or 'informers'
to law enforcement agencies. "Majority of those killed in the ongoing
ethnic violence are Pashtuns," he says.
Anti-Taliban Swati people
travelling to Karachi are being targeted and killed by these militants. On
December 29, 2011, Javed Khan, member of Kabal Peace Committee, was killed in
Banaras area. Muhammad Rahim, a resident of Dherai village of Kabal, was also
shot dead in Karachi on December 23, 2011. Rustam Khan, a local ANP leader
and member of a peace committee in Kanju, was killed in Banaras on January 2
last year. In another case, Fazal Muhammad, a constable of Swat's Special
Police Force and a resident of Charbagh, was killed on November 9, 2011, in
Pathan Colony. Similarly, Nisar Muhammad Khan, a leader of anti-Taliban Peace
Committee of Kabal, was shot dead on October 28 last year in Pathan Colony
area. Mian Azam Shah, an anti-Taliban leader in Matta, was assassinated in
Baldia Town on October 19 last year. Similarly, Humayoon Khan, former
councillor and leader of peace committee in Taal area of Swat, was also
killed in Karachi.
Sher Shah Khan, an elected
parliamentarian from Swat valley, says, "The people killed by militants
in Karachi were very helpful to the government during the military operation,
and I believe they have been targeted for this very reason. Khan tells TNS
killing a pro-government elder is very easy in Karachi rather than Swat.
"The militant group
involved in the killings of pro-government elders of Swat in Karachi is
mainly led by Ibn-e-Aqeel alias khog and Sher Muhammad alias Yaseen,"
says a well-informed elder in Matta, adding that both are among the most
wanted people in Swat. He says that the task of such assassinations was
handed over to them two years ago by TTP Swat's commander Ibn-e-Amin of lower
Shawar area of Swat. It is pertinent to mention that Ibn-e-Amin, a most
dangerous commander in Swat and linked with al Qaeda, was killed in a drone
attack in Tirah valley of Khyber Agency in December 2010.
"We have nothing to do
with the killing of common people. We just target our rivals who helped the
security forces in the operation against us in Swat," a militant hailing
from Charbagh area tells TNS. He claims that some of their hardcore members
had joined other local banned jihadi organisations linked with TTP in
Dozens of pro-government
elders of other parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and tribal areas have been killed
in the past year for speaking against Taliban atrocities in their respective
hometowns. Abdul Manan, the elder brother of Dilawar Khan, a prominent leader
of a Peshawar-based armed lashkar formed against the Taliban militants
operating in Matani and Darra Adam Khel, was also gunned down in Shireen
Jinnah Colony of Karachi in January 2009. Tariq Afridi-led Darra Adam Khel
militants had claimed responsibility for Manan's killings.
agency-based militants are also active in Karachi and killing anti-Taliban
people. Haji Tor Babazai, an anti-Taliban elder of Mohmand Agency, was killed
in Karachi on September 29, 2010. "Qari Shakil, deputy amir of TTP
Mohmand, operates a network of Mohmand militants in Karachi which not only
collects extortions from Mohmand-based businessmen but also kill anti-Taliban
people," an elder of Mohmand agency based in Karachi tells TNS on
condition of anonymity.
agencies have arrested dozens of TTP militants belonging to KP and other
tribal areas," an official at Crime Investigation Department (CID) says,
adding that some of them had suicide jackets and huge quantities of
explosives and weapons and were involved in target killings of pro-government
elders of Swat.
Experts and tribal elders
suggest that law enforcement agencies should launch a "selective and
surgical" operation in Karachi against militants who have migrated to
Karachi which will help stop the target killing of pro-government elders of
KP and tribal areas.
writer is a journalist and researcher. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
I saw the world and it is
indeed a small place. And ugly and sad.
The new departure lounge
off Rawal Lake Park is spanking clean and orderly. And the clerks behind the
desks are efficient and courteous. One look at me, and the man behind the
computer respectfully guides me towards the executive lounge. Now I’m not
the one to demand preferential treatment just because I’m smarter and
balder than others, but I know my manners not to decline an upgrade offer
either. Thank you very much. At the ticket counter however, I learn that the
cost of my round trip has gone up by a hundred and fifty per cent. So much
for accepting an upgrade before buying the ticket. Maybe I’m not that smart
At the exit, I’m scanned
and frisked for the third time, and it’s a very thorough search. In a way
it’s good to know that the security staff is taking their job seriously,
but I am not too sure what the job of this man is who has both his hands
around my crotch, trying to feel the contents of my front pockets. I offered
to empty my pockets, he just smiled and said: ‘no need. Let me do my
job’. I let him. It’s not for us civilians to understand, let alone
question the security measures deemed fit for our protection.
The Executive Shuttle bus
is ready to depart. I find the only seat next to a woman and her teenaged
son. I know he’s the son because the woman is carrying a notary-attested
stamp paper that says so. Where are you going? ‘Italy’ she says with a
sparkle in her eyes. But then she appears apprehensive. ‘This bus goes to
Italy na?’ Yes, I assure her. Is your son ok? I point to the boy resting
his head in his palms. ‘He’s not feeling well, he’s going to puke’. I
jump up in alarm and rush to open the window … but I’m late. I don’t
have to look down to know what he’s thrown up. The smell of half cooked and
a quarter digested organic eggs fills the bus. It’s a very chilly morning
and the bus is comfortably warm, but all the windows open up as if
The bus heads north on 3rd
Avenue and within minutes we are entering Diplomatic Enclave — the world
squeezed in one sector of Islamabad — and a couple of blocks later the bus
slows down for its first stop and the conductor screams out the destination
before opening the door: ‘Soodi Arab, Urgentina, Naarway’. Some
passengers get off clutching their files, and I grab a vacant seat to move
away from the boy who is holding his head down, again.
We continue our exotic
journey on empty roads named after Zhou Enlai, Gamal Abdul Nasir et al but no
Jinnah and no Iqbal. That’s what makes it exotic. There are countries on
both sides of the road, distinguished by their flags and nothing else. All
the buildings and their occupants are hidden behind high walls, topped with
not one but several layers of barbed wire and all of them are guarded by
Pakistani security guards. Another feature that distinguishes this mini world
from the Islamabad around it is its uncouth appearance. Drab buildings,
untended trees, no landscaping to speak of, and heaps of trash every few
blocks … the world is not as beautiful as it seems in picture post cards.
The conductor announces the
junction of Switzerland, Japan, and Indonesia. No one gets off. Next stop is
Nigeria, a sparkling white building, too white in fact, as if trying to prove
a point. Two men carrying brief cases disembark, and others stare at them as
if trying to figure out what business they possibly have in Nigeria. And then
come the two most popular destinations: India and the US. India because of
sheer number of visa applicants and US because … it’s US. Like you may
not want to meet Meera in person but you do feel obliged to hear the latest
Meera joke. Every one leans out the window and takes a good look at the wall
behind which we are told is Amreeka.
Are these men Black Water?
an excited woman asks her male partner, pointing at armed guards outside the
gate. ‘Naeen jan, what are you saying. Just because they are wearing black
salwar qamees? These are only for show shaw, the real guards with remote
control guns are watching us from a satellite camera.’
With the ongoing clash of
institutions, the political temperature in the country has reached new highs.
The honourable Supreme Court, while exercising its jurisdiction under Article
184(3) of the Constitution, has tightened the screws around the PPP
government. Tempers have flared up and statements have been issued by the
leadership of the PPP which could result in findings of contempt of court by
the Supreme Court.
Two notices of contempt,
one in consequence of a press conference regarding ‘Memogate’ and the
other as a result of verses recited in Punjabi outside the Supreme Court,
have been issued to Babar Awan. Therefore, it may be worthwhile to examine
the contempt of court laws in Pakistan and their potential consequences for
the PPP leadership.
The origin of contempt
jurisdiction traces its roots to the 18th century England where contempt was
more or less directed against the sovereign and its authority. In R v Almon
(1765), Judge Wilmot observed that this power in the courts was for
vindicating their authority and was ‘a necessary incident to a court of
justice’. This was the first judgment in legal history that marked the
judicial interpretation of the contempt power in its true essence.
In Pakistan, Article 204 of
the 1973 Constitution clearly laid down what actions would amount to contempt
of court. This provision provides that the court shall have the power to
punish any person who abuses, interferes or obstructs the process of the
court or does anything which will ‘prejudice the determination of a matter
pending before the court’. More importantly, relevant to the case of Babar
Awan, scandalising or bringing the Court into ‘hatred, ridicule or
contempt’ can also be punishable by law.
In furtherance of this
constitutional provision, the Contempt of Court Act was introduced in 1976
which was later repealed and replaced by the Contempt of Court Ordinance of
2003. This ordinance provides for a maximum imprisonment of six months and/or
a fine of one lakh rupees to any person found guilty of ‘civil’,
‘criminal’ or ‘judicial contempt’. According to this ordinance,
Awan’s words could come under the ambit of ‘judicial contempt’ as this
includes the ‘scandalisation’ of the Court as defined under Section 2 of
So what is the object of
contempt proceedings? The Supreme Court took great pains to clarify this
point in the landmark case of Syed Masroor Ahsan vs Ardeshir Cowasjee (PLD
1998 SC 823). The honourable Court stated that contempt proceedings are meant
to ‘protect the public’ whose interests would be affected if the
authority of the Court is lowered by the act or conduct of any party.
Therefore, the purpose of contempt proceedings is to ‘preserve the
confidence of the public in the Court and not the protection of individual
Equally important is the
fact that contempt proceedings often conflict directly with the freedom of
speech guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution. In India, ex-Attorney
General Soli Sorabjee argued in favour of open and robust criticism of
judgments, however, severe and painful, as necessary for effective
functioning of the judiciary. Lord Atkin also once famously stated that
“Justice is not a cloistered virtue; she must be allowed to suffer the
scrutiny of respectful, even though outspoken, comments of ordinary men”.
Awan may still find it hard to invoke Article 19 in his defense as his
statements can objectively be deemed to be contemptuous. As a consequence,
the Supreme Court under Order IV of the Supreme Court Rules 1980 can cancel
the practice license of Babar Awan as it has recently threatened to do so.
Apart from a legal
analysis, it is important to analyse these contempt proceedings from a
political standpoint as well. The present perceived clash of institutions can
be traced back to the time immediately after the restoration of the Chief
Justice of Pakistan, under whose leadership the judiciary has passed various
judgments affecting the present government.
Though the contemptuous
statements of Awan cannot be justified, it is important to realise the
context in which they have been delivered. The present government, due to
historical and political reasons, may feel that it has been repeatedly
victimised by the institutions of this country. Such verbal tirades, though
not helping the cause of the government, may be an expression of frustration,
anger and political isolation by the leadership of the PPP against the
unelected power elite of Pakistan.
At the same time, the
Supreme Court also seems to have lost patience with the PPP government
primarily due to non-implementation of its verdicts. These contempt
proceedings seem to be what many see as a long overdue assertion by the Court
of its position in the face of harsh comments.
Finally, it is interesting
to observe the treatment meted out by the honourable Court to Babar Awan and
contrast it with the court’s silence on statements issued by Asma Jehangir
in the wake of the Memogate case. Jehangir, an internationally renowned human
rights lawyer and counsel for Husain Haqqani, made some scathing remarks
against the honourable Court including terming it the ‘judiciary of the
establishment’. No contempt proceedings were initiated against her.
Moreover, an unfortunate
by-product of the lawyers’ movement is the culture of impunity that the
lawyers’ community now seems to enjoy. Occurrences of verbal abuse,
particularly against judges of the lower judiciary, seem to happen quite
frequently while no contempt proceedings are initiated against the lawyers
involved. Contempt of Court proceedings are an important tool to maintain and
uphold the honour and dignity of the court. The issue is divisive and the
honourable Supreme Court will, we trust, be mindful of this. However, as is
often the case with Supreme Court decisions worldwide, the verdict inside the
courtroom may not necessarily settle all matters outside it.
writer is a barrister-at-law. He can be reached at email@example.com
On January 11, 2012, Prime
Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani said the Senate elections will be held on time
despite ‘the game being played’. “All this game is being played to get
the Senate elections stopped. But I think Senate elections will be held on
time and democracy will stay,” he said while talking to newsmen in
On Thursday, Jan 12,
Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) announced the Senate Elections will be
held on March 2, 2012. Fifty senators will retire on March 12.
Political analysts believe
that the recent political turmoil in the country is because of the upcoming
Senate elections for its 50 per cent members in March 2012. Both the PML-N
and the PTI believe these elections, if held as per schedule, will further
consolidate the PPP’s position in the upper house of the parliament.
According to different
estimations, the PPP can easily increase its strength from the present 27
members to 45 in the house of 104 senators, keeping its relevance in the
parliamentary politics even if it does not form a government after the next
general elections. At present, Senate consists of 100 members, but after the
next elections its strength will become 104 — under the 18th Constitutional
Amendment, the provincial assemblies will send one minority member each to
the upper house. Though the Senate of Pakistan has no role in the making or
unmaking of the government, it plays an important role in legislation.
The term of a senator is
six years, but 50 per cent of the total members retire after every three
years and elections are held for new senators. Only five out of 27 senators
of the ruling party are retiring in March 2012. Those retiring from the PPP
include stalwarts like Mian Raza Rabbani, Babar Awan and Safdar Abbasi. The
PML-Q will be the major loser as 20 out of 21 of its members are retiring
from Senate. The PML-Q Senators retiring include Wasim Sajjad, S.M. Zafar,
Mohammad Ali Durrani, Jan Mohammad Jamali, Wasim Sajjad and Lt Gen (retd)
Javed Ashraf Qazi. The JUI-F will also lose seven of its Senators while the
Jamaat-e-Islami that has three members, one each from PkMAP and Jamhoori
Watan Party (JWP), will lose complete representation in the parliament as it
has no representation in the national and provincial assemblies. The PML-N
and the ANP will also lose one Senator each.
According to number of
members in different provincial assemblies, the PPP is expected to win at
least 22 seats, the PML-N seven, the ANP six, the PML-Q five, the MQM four,
the JUI-F three and a few independents will also make their way to Senate as
In the Punjab Assembly, out
of 11 seats, the PML-N can win seven seats, three can go to the PPP and one
may be bagged by the PML-Q. In Punjab, a candidate will require at least 53
votes to get elected as member of Senate on the general seat. In Punjab, the
PML-N enjoys support of 186 members, the PPP 107 and the PML-Q around 50 in
the house of 371 members.
In the Sindh Assembly, the
PPP can easily win six seats while the MQM can bag four out of 11 seats,
while one remaining seat can either go to the PPP or the PML-F or the PML-Q.
Sindh Assembly has a total strength of 168 and general seat candidates will
require 24 votes each to win. The PPP has 93 members in the assembly.
In the KP Assembly,
candidate will need votes of at least 18 MPs to get elected. The ANP has 49
members, the PPP 30, the JUI-F 14, independents 10, the PML-Q and the PPP-Sherpao
each have six members in the assembly. The ANP can win six seats, the PPP
three or four and the JUI-F is expected to win one seat.
In the Balochistan
Assembly, a candidate will need nine votes to become a Senator. The PML-Q is
the largest party with 18 members, the PPP has 13 members and the JUI-F nine
members. The PML-Q can win five seats while the PPP can get four and the JUI-F
and BNP-Awami one each. The PPP can win both seats from the federal capital
though the PML-Q wants the PPP to get Mushahid Hussain Syed elected as
Senator from here.
For the first time,
Senators from Fata will be elected on party basis under the Political Parties
Act. The PPP can also win two minority seats while the PML-N and the ANP can
get one each.
In Islamabad, different
names are being discussed for the slot of chairman as the current Senate
chairman Farooq Naik is also retiring. Babar Awan was considered the
strongest candidate for the slot until January 11 when President Asif Zardari
directed Aitzaz Ahsan to contest for the Senate elections.
The PPP so far has received
more than 490 applications from its party members for the upcoming Senate
elections. The final decision of awarding tickets, according to the PPP
sources, will be taken by President Asif Zardari after consultations with the
top party leadership.
The debate on creating new
provinces in Pakistan has caught the mainstream political parties wrangling
with each other, advocating different points of view about bifurcation of the
existing regions. The debate initially started with the division of Punjab
making south region as a new province. But gradually it spilled over with
more voices calling for Hazara, Seraikistan, Qabilistan and Pothohar as new
provinces and restoration of the status of Bahawalpur and many other such
states in the northwestern Pakistan.
The South Punjab debate as
a new province started a few years ago, time and again igniting a political
firestorm in the country’s politics — the most recent being in the
“We do not oppose the
creation of new provinces and a majority of members support us over the
Seraiki province at this juncture. And I do not want the consensus developed
on the creation of the Seraiki province be lost due to politics. History will
never forgive us if this happens,” Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had
said in response to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) members, who insisted
on a headcount on their resolution for Seraiki and Hazara provinces.
Talking to TNS, the MQM’s
deputy parliamentary leader, Haider Abbas Rizvi, says his party wants
discussion on a resolution for the creation of Hazara and Seraiki provinces
on administrative grounds.
Senator Raza Rabbani, who
played a vital role in drafting the 18th Amendment, had rubbished the idea of
a ‘debate’ on the issue in the National Assembly, saying first the issue
should be debated by the relevant provinces. “Such a resolution can only be
brought before the National Assembly if it is passed by the provincial
assembly with a two-third majority.”
Political analyst Dr Hasan
Askari Rizvi says, “You cannot stop the debate on new provinces, but
provinces are not created on political grounds. Every proposal has to be
examined on merit by an authentic political body before creation of a new
Rizvi tells TNS that the
National Assembly can discuss anything, but provinces cannot be created
without the consent of two-third majority of the concerned provincial
assembly. Therefore, a resolution must be presented in the provincial
assembly. He thinks this kind of debate will gain momentum as the country
moves towards general elections.
Haji Adeel, Senator and ANP
senior vice-chairman, outrightly rejects the creation of new provinces,
saying that the issue of the new provinces is just to score political points.
“We should bury these issues. If you talk about other provinces being
divided then you should also be ready to divide Karachi,” he tells TNS,
adding the population of the Karachi city exceeds that of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa,
so it’s better to divide Karachi on administrative grounds before creating
Hazara and Qabilistan. He accuses the MQM of taking up this issue to divide
Pakhtuns of different regions. Also, he maintains, if there is a demand for
the restoration of formerly princely state of Bahawalpur, then you will have
to consider the status of other formerly princely states like Qallat and
Independent observers also
believe that both Seraiki and Hazara provinces are being advocated on ethnic
and linguistic basis even if their promoters unconvincingly claim that their
move is based on administrative grounds.
“The ANP and the MQM have
old rivalry in Karachi and the battle on new provinces is fought not only in
Karachi but everywhere. The MQM wants to build up its support base in other
provinces by supporting such public issues,” Hasan Askari Rizvi concludes.