MULTAN: President Asif Ali Zardari has called upon Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to immediately start consultative process with all the political parties with a view to make a separate Seraiki province in South Punjab, said a press release on Saturday.
The president said this during his meeting with the delegation of Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) lawyer forum at the Prime Minister’s House Multan.
Spokesperson to the President Senator Farhatullah Babar, while giving details of the meetings held today, said that the president maintained that this was not politics but was meant to respect and honour the aspiration of the people of South Punjab who have been feeling deprived for the last sixty years and were demanding their just rights.
The president said that the PPP promised to give identity to the people of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and that they had fulfilled their promises.
“Similarly we gave rights to our Balochi brothers and the people of Gilgit-Baltistan.” Now, he said, we have promised the people of this belt to cater to their aspirations and we would do our best to honour our commitment.
He said that the people of this area have every right to demand and have their own province and the party leadership respected their wishes and aspirations. He added that this was the right time to give what people have been asking for so long.
“If giving rights to the people is a crime, we will continue to commit such crimes,” Senator Babar quoted the president as saying.
The President warned that if a viable solution for a new south Punjab province is not evolved, then militancy will hijack the vision and life of the people. He was addressing members of People’s Lawyer’s Forum of south Punjab in Prime Minister Camp in Multan. He said that people of the region were already fighting alongside terrorists in the mountains.
“We have already found that students of the madaris of the region are fighting in the mountain along with terrorists. If people of south Punjab will not be given their due right, their reaction will be dreadful,” he warned. The issue was not about politics but, about the existence of a stable Pakistan, he added.
South Punjab province will be announced before the next general elections but it will be done after comprehensive consultation. I have given orders to initiate the consultation about the name of the province and provincial boundary.
He said that they were aiming for an economically viable province started before the next general elections.
Defending the Prime Minister
Visiting his Prime Minister’s hometown, Zardari rallied support for Gilani, “Gilani is a man of crisis, and he knows very well how to face challenges.” Suggesting that there were some who wished differences develop between the President and Prime Minister, he fared them a fair warning, “there were no differences between me and Gilani, nor will there ever be.”
“I appreciate his services for the people of Pakistan and I am proud of him,” he added.
The president assured the gathering that the PPP would not let anything happen to Pakistan’s sovereignty and will sacrifice the party for Pakistan’s integrity.
Earlier, he said that the biggest reason of his visit to Multan was to defend his Prime Minister and his sons against a targeted strategy.
“I had been targeted in the same manner in the past and people had been forced to become witness against me in the narcotics case,” Zardari said.
Terming it a character assassination Prime Minister and of his sons, Zardari said that Gilani was brave and fully aware the bogus campaign against him. Hinting towards certain quarters, Zardari said that the Multan native had been targeted only after they brought up the topic of Seraiki province and backed the President.
He said that the party had complete consensus over the need for a south Punjab province. A name for this province will be decided and announced by Gilani.
Roaring at the Tiger
Lashing out at the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Zardari quipped, “if we want, we can take away the government from PML-N, but we respect the mandate given to them by the people of Pakistan.”
Explaining execution of power, he said that all his ministers were independent and powerful because he wanted them to be empowered since they were representatives of the people of Pakistan.
“But you can also see the Chief Minister of Lahore who does not want to share even a single ministry. Its people who empower to share their power and resolve their problems, it was never you who would empower people,” the President jibed.
Zardari is on his first official visit to Multan, where the Prime Minister House is his temporary residence.
Strict security measures have been taken and Multan has been declared a red alert zone for the duration of president’s visit.
All political leaders of PPP southern Punjab were called to Multan for the final decision on the Seraiki province.
As per sources, PPP has completed the constitutional framework and all paperwork for the creation of a Seraiki province.
Earlier, PPP southern Punjab President Makhdum Shahabuddin had said that the president will be announcing the creation of a Seraiki province after the senate elections, adding that he would be doing so in person.
Correction: In an earlier version of the article, ‘Zardari’ was misspelled in the headline. The error has been rectified.