S. Punjab politicians focus on autonomy


Nauman Tasleem April 08, 2010

ISLAMABAD: The call for a separate Seraiki province comprising areas of what is now south Punjab have been renewed as politicians here feel that they are not getting adequate representation on issues that affect them most.

But so far politicians have not been true to the cause Whether associated with the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) or the Pakistan Muslim League– Nawaz (PML-N), politicians from south Punjab have always tried to protect their own interests, say observers. This is the reason the south has remained backward, uneducated and poor, observers say.

“No (smaller) political party could prosper, as big leaders always try to join influential parties in order to gain more power in their areas,” said political analyst Tariq Majeed. He added that leaders like Balakh Sher Mazari, Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, Farooq Leghari, and Zulfiqar Khosa all hail from south Punjab but their areas are the most backward. “Politicians from the south always blame north Punjab for neglecting them and demand a separate province but when they come to power, they forget everything,” Majeed claimed.

More than three prime ministers, two presidents and a large number of federal and provincial ministers have come from South Punjab. When asked why he had not paid attention to the Seraikistan issue when he was in power, former information minister Muhammad Ali Durrani, who is now actively making a case for a separate province for south Punjab, said things have changed now and the need for a separate province is now felt more.

Deputy Opposition leader in the Punjab Assembly Muhammad Yar Hiraj said south Punjab was given special attention in President Musharraf’s era and powers transferred to grass-root levels solved a lot of problems.

“Now the government has totally ignored the region and has withdrawn all funds, which is fueling a sense of deprivation in the locals,” he claimed.

Hiraj is originally from south Punjab and is a member of the PML-Q. He defends his decision to be a member of the PML-Q and not a smaller party by saying: “We believe in Pakistan and don’t want to create divisions.”

Hiraj admits that south Punjab is justified in some of the claims it makes. He added, however, that Punjab would never favour the creation of a Seraiki province as it would be harmful to the Sharif family.

Pakistan Muslim League- Functional (PML-F) leader and south Punjab politician Makhdoom Ahmad Mahmood Qureshi said an additional province should be created for the people of south Punjab as it was their constitutional right. “If the province of Gilgit- Baltistan can be created, then Seraikistan can be created too,” said Qureshi.

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