MULTAN: President Asif Ali Zardari pledged on Sunday that he would direct the government to set up a separate Seraiki bank and invited businessmen in southern Punjab to submit a formal proposal for the project within a week.
His remarks came during a meeting with the business community in the Prime Minister House in Multan, where the president emphasised that the new Seraiki bank will address all the financial issues of the region.
“I invite industrialists, the business community and traders to join hands for the Seraiki bank and you will have full support of the federation,” declared Zardari.
Further, he assured the business community that the issue of independent power producers (IPPs) would be dealt with by next month and all the payments would be made.
“I am surprised to see the economic weakness of southern Punjab,” he said.
“Leaders raising slogans of good governance should come here and evaluate the ground realities themselves and then blame the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) on other issues.”
On Saturday, President Zardari called upon Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to immediately open consultations with all political groupings with a view to make a separate Seraiki province in South Punjab.
In the meeting, the president observed that banks in the past had been manipulated for political ends but this time the PPP-led government has aimed at ensuring a financial system that will not be manipulated against political opponents.
Giving details of the meeting, presidential spokesman Senator Farhatullah Babar said that after discussing the overall economic situation of the country, the president said that the war on terror and natural calamities had adversely impacted the economy.
The president said that limited job opportunities and poverty were the major issues facing the region. “In order to honour the aspiration of the people of South Punjab for having their own province, the prime minister has been asked to start a consultative process with all the political parties for making a separate Seraiki province in South Punjab,” said the president.
“The Seraiki province is not being created for political gains but for bringing the people of the region in the mainstream and respecting their contribution to the national solidarity.”
Other matters of common interest
Talking about his recent visit to India, President Zardari declared that many crucial matters of common interest were discussed.
“I want India to be a real neighbour and India wants the same. We discussed the water crisis and increasing trade relations between the two countries.”
Meanwhile, responding to a query regarding the reopening of the Nato supply routes, he said the prerogative lay with parliament.
“It is not a PPP issue. It is the parliament of Pakistan’s decision and we are bound to follow it.”
Responding to Zardari’s statement, Punjab Minister for Law Rana Sanaullah Khan said that this bank was also a corruption ploy. “Zardari should not forget the trillions of dollars of the poor Pakistani people looted by him and deposited in Swiss banks,” he said.
In the wake of the announcement of the new bank, he said “banking dacoits” like Hamesh Khan and Younis Habib would be very happy.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 16th, 2012.