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South Punjab lawmakers play gimmicks, refuse to verify resignations

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News Analysis |

The gimmickry in Pakistani style of politics has been its trademark, be at the local or state level, however, tactics such as leaving any party on ‘moral’ grounds, just weeks before the elections, raises eyebrows of political observers. The same suspicion is now being observed after five MNAs and 3 MPAs decided to leave ruling Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz, in the pretext of advocacy for a new province in South Punjab.

Led by Khusro Bakhtiar, the lawmakers addressed a press conference recently and announced to tender resignations, however, as the National Assembly Speaker summoned four of them for physical verification of resignations, no one turned up, suggesting that the resignation threat was merely a ‘ploy’ to bag public support. Ayaz Sadiq, the National Assembly Speaker had called Khusro Bakhtiar, Basit Bukhari, Tahir Bashir Cheema and Qasim Noon, however, their absence has fueled the suspicion that South Punjab issue has once again been blown up deliberately, without any sincere motives.

The three-term chief minister has also somewhat managed to bag public support in the South by infrastructure development, be it Multan Metro Bus project or a network of Danish Schools and it seems improbable that he would budge from his position of a united single Punjab.

Even when the legislators rallied behind the cause of South Punjab, political commentators cast aspirations on the motives of defectors, because none of the lawmakers in question tabled any resolution or moved any bill for the creation of South Punjab province, as vindicated by the record of the National Assembly. What gives credence to the perception that the new province issue is raised to gain mileage before the upcoming elections is the fact that even prior to the 2013 elections, a similar movement was launched; however, it died down after the legislators took oath of their office, and everything went hunky dory.

In 2012, Rana Sanaullah, Punjab Law Minister and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader tabled resolutions regarding the creation of the South Punjab province and restoration of Bahawalpur province which were unanimously approved by the Punjab Assembly, however there was no development thereafter, though the minister had clarified that the resolutions were passed after the consent of Nawaz Sharif, the then party head.

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Statistically, the population of Punjab according to the census conducted in 2017 stands at 110 million; according to the defectors, the population of South Punjab is 50 percent of the total population of Punjab.

Such a massive amount of population is absolutely difficult to manage, keeping Pakistan’s fragile administrative machinery in consideration. Resource allocation, decentralization, equal employment opportunities and many other factors imply the need for a new province, however, the lawmakers from South region have been exploiting the issue from quite a long time now for personal political gains, instead of actively raising voice for the people, they have been governing.

The same suspicion is now being observed after five MNAs and 3 MPAs decided to leave ruling Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz, in the pretext of advocacy for a new province in South Punjab.

Another reason behind the traditional pre-election defections is the fact that Punjab sends 148 lawmakers to the National Assembly, with the share of South Punjab standing at 46.

The ruling Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz had been able to cajole as much as 35 lawmakers i.e. 76 percent of the total representatives under its banner, who enjoyed the privileges attached to the assembly membership from 2013 to 2018, however, with just 55 days short of elections, the politicians decided to raise voice for the plight of their region.

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In his presser, Khusru Bakhtiar had mentioned that the South Punjab’s poverty hovers around 51 percent of entire Punjab, decrying that the south had a job quota of five percent in the Punjab Public Service Commission; he forgot that the poverty index and its juxtaposition with employment opportunities existed from last five years and even before that period, as well.

Statistically, the population of Punjab according to the census conducted in 2017 stands at 110 million; according to the defectors, the population of South Punjab is 50 percent of the total population of Punjab.

The smart move, timed months before the electoral tussle seems to be a bait for the political parties as it has put them between a rock and a hard place.If the major political forces: Pakistan  Tehreek-e-Insaf, Pakistan  Muslim League Nawaz and Pakistan People’s Party refuse to advocate the cause of South Punjab, they would be losing public support in the region that sends as many as 46 lawmakers to center. On the other hand, if they accept the demands and join in on the cause, they would be grilled after the elections for what they have done in this regard.

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The role of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz is crucial in this case. At one end, it would prefer to die than to create new provinces owing to the stronghold Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif seeks to keep, on the other end, it simply cannot pump money into the region, for just to lure in more voters.

The three-term chief minister has also somewhat managed to bag public support in the South by infrastructure development, be it Multan Metro Bus project or a network of Danish Schools and it seems improbable that he would budge from his position of a united single Punjab. Conclusively, the drums regarding the creation of South Punjab province would be beaten once again, with no tangible results in sight.


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