News Analysis |
In a rather unexpected development, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has said that it is ready to extend its “full cooperation” for the creation of a South Punjab province and the restoration of the Bahawalpur province in Punjab. PML-N President Mr. Shahbaz Sharif has said that his party is considering tabling a private bill in the house in order to urge the government and opposition to create much-awaited South Punjab province.
Mr. Sharif in the National Assembly on Thursday reminded the government that PTI had promised to create a new province on the priority basis. As a matter of fact, the PTI had included it into its manifesto that it would create a new province on the administrative basis if elected to power. Now, the opposition wants the government to fulfill its promise.
PTI before general election after getting assurance by its chief Imran Khan that the new province will be created to safeguard the interests of the Saraikis.
Mr. Sharif also assured the government of his unconditional support for the project. “We are ready to establish the southern Punjab province with our heart and soul,” he added. Interestingly, a PTI lawmaker Amir Dogar accused the opposition parties of “point scoring” on the issue; however, Sharif responded by saying, “This is not point scoring. Don’t talk about the past or a Pandora’s Box will open […] support the private bill [for the creation of the province].”
Government representatives agreed to form a parliamentary committee on the issue in order to seek political consensus from all stakeholders. 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 conclusion.
Read more: 8 legislators demand new province in Punjab
It is worth mentioning here that the people of South Punjab– comprising Bahawalpur, Multan, Dera Ghazi Khan, Layyah, and Bhakka– allege that their cities are the most the backward and underdeveloped areas of Pakistan’s largest and most populated province Punjab. The residents of South Punjab, Saraiki-speaking people, have often complained that they are being exploited by the upper and central Punjab’s political elite.
Mr. Sharif in the National Assembly on Thursday reminded the government that PTI had promised to create a new province on the priority basis.
Analysts believe that some of the demands of Saraikis are genuine and need government’s immediate action. According to media reports, in budget 2017-18, the gap between what was proposed to be spent in Lahore and South Punjab got widened.
“Punjab government has earmarked whooping Rs36.75 bn for Lahore’s medical colleges and hospitals in the budget for the FY 2017-18 whereas a petty Rs 17.75 bn has been reserved for the provision of medical and health facilities to the residents of southern Punjab, thus widening the budgetary allocation gap by over 100pc,” read the report.
It is often argued that most 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), led by Khusro Bakhtiar.
Later on, the group joined the PTI before general election after getting assurance by its chief Imran Khan that the new province will be created to safeguard the interests of the Saraikis. Now it is yet to be seen whether the PTI government agrees to create a new province or not. If it does not, it will help the opposition generating another new narrative against the PTI which had post-elections, promised to create the said province and will probably affect the vote bank of PTI in south Punjab too.