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South Punjab secretariat

Of the several promises that the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has so far failed to honour, the establishment of a separate province in south Punjab stands out for many reasons. The government has made no serious effort, except for presenting a bill in the National Assembly. The PTI polled an overwhelming majority in the 2018 elections from the area after the party chief (and now prime minister) Imran Khan said on many occasions in election rallies that he would facilitate the creation of said province. Instead of getting the necessary legislative work done, the party now seems focused on creating an administrative secretariat in the region. Chief Minister Usman Buzdar says they have done the work on the establishment of the south Punjab secretariat and now it awaits ‘political consultation’.
What, exactly, will be the nature of this ‘political consultation? It seems there are differences on the site of the secretariat among the party leaders. A powerful lobby has been working to make Lodhran or Bahawalpur the city of the secretariat, while government circles and many party leaders want to see it in Multan. Mr Buzdar, who has spearheaded many initiatives on the development of south Punjab, says all administrative arrangements for the secretariat have been made. His government has also allocated funds in the budget.
It is very likely that with the establishment of the south Punjab secretariat, the government will bury the province issue on the pretext of its numerical poverty in Punjab and national assemblies. The fact is that the government has never made a serious effort to forge a consensus on the matter in parliament. This longstanding issue has been in the house three times already. In 2013, PPP presented a bill in the Senate demanding the creation of a South Punjab province consisting of Multan, Dera Ghazi Khan and Bahawalpur divisions, besides Bhakkar and Mianwali districts of Sargodha division. Earlier in January this year, the PML-N presented a bill for the creation of two provinces in south Punjab. The party also got a resolution on the two provinces approved by the Punjab Assembly in 2012.
PTI in May sought a province consisting of Bahawalpur, Dera Ghazi Khan and Multan divisions. The ruling party is not sure of winning the support of PML-N, and that is why it is working aggressively on the establishment of the south Punjab secretariat in Multan, besides making separate budgetary allocations for the Seraiki-speaking region. These measures cannot be the equivalent of a separate province.



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