The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Wednesday struck a deal with the political leadership of Bahawalpur, in a move intended to counter the Pakistan Peoples Party-led coalition government’s move to carve out the new province of South Punjab.
In exchange for political support on the ground – including allowing the PML-N to win seats virtually uncontested – the PML-N has agreed to demand the re-creation of a Bahawalpur province.
The ‘prince’ of Bahawalpur state, Nawab Salahud Din Abbasi, met PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif to finalise their strategy. Trying to play down the meeting, the political secretary to Nawaz, Dr Asif Kirmani, said that the leaders discussed politics in general.
According to sources, Abbasi, who has launched a political party – the Bahawalpur National Awami Party –discussed the Senate election in details with Nawaz. Sources say that Abbasi has been offered a seat in the Senate at the forthcoming election.
Details of their deal are that PML-N in the Bahawalpur division will cede to two seats out of the three that Abbassi had asked for in the lower house: NA 183 and NA184. At present, PPP MNA Arif Aziz Sheikh is the member for NA 183. According to local political sources, Sheikh won the seat with the support of Abbasi.
In exchange Abbasi will withdraw his candidates from contesting elections against PML-N’s candidates in other seats in Bahawalpur. Furthermore, the PML-N in its manifesto would categorically mention a demand for the restoration of Bahawalpur province and would support Abbasi’s movement in this regard.
According to sources, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Ch Nisar Ali Khan, Senator Perveiz Rashid and Provincial Minister Malik Iqbal Channar were also part of the negotiations.
Sources say that when the PPP government entertains MQM’s private bill over South Punjab, Abbasi’s group, the Tehreek-e-Bahali-e-Soba Bahawalpur, under the platform of Mutahidda Mahaz Bahawalpur, will protest and demand their province.
Sources further said that the PML-N – through an allied party – will move a bill seeking the restoration of Bahawalpur province. When PPP and PML-Q MPAs deposited their resolution in the Punjab Assembly pertaining to the new province, the PML-N, through a member of the Pakistan Muslim League-Zia (PML-Z), submitted the resolution in the PA seeking the restoration of Bahawalpur province.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 2nd, 2012.
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