News Analysis |
Shah Mehmood Qureshi, vice chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Foreign Minister, urged the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Wednesday, to assist the incumbent government in granting the status of province to South Punjab. Qureshi said a good number of people from the PML-N wanted to create the South Punjab province. He, however, added that some friends from the PML-N were still entangled in the bill on Bahawalpur province, presented during the past regime.
“How is it possible to make Bahawalpur a province, which consists of only three districts,” Qureshi posed a question, saying that PML-N should adopt a more practical approach in this regard. Qureshi stated that for the creation of South Punjab province, two-third majority was required, adding that Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) decided to extend cooperation for the province.
There was a joint effort by the representatives of South Punjab before the election who created a Janoobi Punjab Suba Mahaz (JPSM) which was led by Khusro Bakhtiar.
PML-N wants to restore autonomous status of the Bahawalpur province which means it intends to create two new provinces. It is believed that the stance adopted by the former ruling party is impractical and only aims at gaining political attention. Hence, political commentators believe that PML-N is not serious to cooperate with the government at the moment.
South Punjab Province: Background and Some Facts
The people of South Punjab, comprising of Bahawalpur, Multan, Dera Ghazi Khan, Layyah, and Bhakkar, allege that they are living in a backward and underdeveloped area of Pakistan’s largest and most populated province Punjab. The residents of South Punjab speak Saraiki. They have often complained that they were being exploited by the upper and central Punjab’s political elite. Analysts believe that some of the demands of Saraikis are genuine and need government’s immediate action.
According to a report by Dunya News, in budget 2017-18, the gap between what was proposed to be spent in Lahore and South Punjab got widened. “Punjab government has earmarked a whopping Rs36.75 bln for Lahore’s medical colleges and hospitals in budget for the FY 2017-18, whereas a petty Rs17.75 bln has been reserved for the provision of medical and health facilities for the residents of Southern Punjab, thus widening the budgetary allocation gap by over 100pc,” read the report.
It is often argued that a major portion of the budget is spent on Lahore and other urban areas and South Punjab is ignored by the political elites sitting in the provincial capital. There was a joint effort by the representatives of South Punjab before the election who created a Janoobi Punjab Suba Mahaz (JPSM) which was led by Khusro Bakhtiar. Later on, the group joined PTI before the general election after getting assurance by its chief, Imran Khan, that the new province will be created to safeguard the interests of the Saraikis.
Qureshi stated that for the creation of South Punjab province, two-third majority was required, adding that Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) decided to extend cooperation for the province.
Stance of PTI Government
Last month the government representatives agreed to form a parliamentary committee on the issue in order to seek political consensus from all stake holders. Foreign Minister Mr. Shah Mehmood Qureshi assured the house to form the committee and look into the matter in order to reach out some logical conclusions. Moreover, on Jan 16, National Assembly Speaker, Asad Qaiser, said that steps were being taken to implement the plan to give South Punjab the status of a province.
“The people of South Punjab would be soon given good tidings.” He had expressed these views while talking to members of the National Assembly, belonging to Multan and Dera Ghazi Khan Divisions who met him in Islamabad.
Read more: Will South Punjab be a Province?
There is another challenge for the incumbent government to deal with. In Pakistan, provinces are named according to cultural composition and social origins of communities living there, on these grounds, Saraikis demand the South Punjab province to be named “Saraikistan” since they constitute more than 90% population of the region.