Is PTI planning a U-turn on the South Punjab issue?

During 2018 election campaigns, almost all political parties and their candidates concurred that a separate province is the only way forward for people of South Punjab

South Punjab

The only time our political heavyweights agree upon their constituents’ plight is when the electoral procedure is about to kickstart. At no other time, contesting candidates or their parties are likely to agree on the condition of their constituencies or its residents.

As soon as one of them comes out as a chosen representative, his side of the grass turns lush green and he starts acting as if his constituency has turned into a la-la land.

Promise of a South Punjab Province within 100 days

During 2018 election campaigns, almost all political parties and their candidates concurred that a separate province is the only way forward for people of South Punjab. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) showed their commitment to this cause by incorporating an agreement with Janoobi Punjab Sooba Mahaz (JPSM) which obligated PTI to create a separate province for the people of South Punjab within a time period of first 100 days of coming into power.

Read more: South Punjab province or Saraikistan; what do Saraikis demand?

Mr. Khusro Bakhtiar in his capacity as president of JPSM was committed to this movement. Mr. Shah Mehmood Qureshi, too, at that time seemed to comprehend that nothing less than a separate province was overly important to devolve powers in its true democratic sense so that the, so far, ignored people could prosper without looking up to the throne in Lahore. But after winning the elections, it appears that for him Multan has now turned into Manhattan.

 

Unfortunately, our social and political culture is not favourable for organic replacements of leaders. A classic example, out of many, is that after 2018 elections there is a complete vacuum of representation of PTI in South Punjab region. Mr. Qureshi and Mr. Bakhteyar seem to be completely consumed in their given ministries.

An insecure regional leadership

Educated and competent members of Punjab Assembly like Mr. Nadeem Qureshi and Barrister Waseem Badozai are not being effectively utilised by their political mentors. Both of the said members are deeply integrated within their constituencies and fully able to defend PTI’s narrative at every level.

But lack of support by their party is a visible restraint for them. The hesitation of ‘senior leaders’ in promoting such able leadership maybe because of their own political insecurities.

Read more: South Punjab province: Is it even needed?

As obligated by Article 239 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973, the bill of creation of South Punjab province requires two-third majority at both Houses of our Parliament as well as the Punjab Assembly. Such a resolution has already been passed by the Punjab Assembly.

The PTI Government does not have required majority to amend the Constitution. This less than required majority can be used to strong-arm the opposition and expose who’s who in Parliament.

Even if the bill fails, the Government can use it to demonstrate its bonafide towards the cause and enshroud malice of the rest. However, failure to present the bill, even after lapse of two years, has unnecessarily given opposition ample elbow room to disparage government’s credibility.

Creating a sub-secretariat will not solve anything

Instead, the Government has announced to create a sub-secretariat in the region. While looking at our bureaucratic history, it is a reasonable apprehension that this step may backfire to be an additional tier in red-tapism.

Matters involving legislation and finances are still dependent on Punjab Assembly. Although, creation of sub-secretariat is definitely a foot in the door but not a substitute, per se.

At such a time local leadership was required to be efficiently utilised for dispelling all doubts regarding creation of a separate province and assure their constituents that it is inevitably forthcoming.

Read more: PTI keeps an election promise: South Punjab Province Bill to be tabled in NA

With their strong ties with people, Mr. Nadeem Qureshi and Barrister Waseem Badozai can done this with ease but the insecurities of their political mentors is working against the party’s interest. PTI has failed to convey that administrative infrastructure had to be put in place before presenting the bill for a separate province.

It is widely believed that leaders hatch on opposition benches and not in the government. This belief fits well with the performance of member of Punjab Assembly Mr. Syed Ali Haider Gillani. The young man has brilliantly filled in the vacuum left by tsunami, at least within South Punjab region.

His staunch advocacy in favour of creating a separate province for his people is being written as a significant chapter in history. The Government must realise that a vibrant opposition in shape of Mr. Gillani is much quicker on the trigger. To be fair, his performance at provincial level implicates his prowess to take on the national stage.

The Government must pull up their socks and at least convey its commitment to the cause with same enthusiasm which was visible before elections; maybe thats the least they can do to stay in the game.

Read more: South Punjab Province: Is PML-N serious to cooperate with PTI?

Or else they must get ready to face further defiance from the elected representatives of their own party which would eventually reflect on the party in 2023 elections. Mr. Ahmad Hassan Dahar’s statement against the prevailing party culture must neither be ignored nor oppressed and should be taken as an opportunity to assure that tsunami does not turn against itself.

The author is a managing partner at an Islamabad based law firm. He deals with constitutional and corporate/ commercial matters. His twitter handle is @H_Rohila. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space. 

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