Imran Khan led PTI government promised in its first 100 days agenda to spearhead creation of a South Punjab province along administrative lines and create national consensus on the creation of a South Punjab province with the objective to lift 35 million people out of poverty, as well as to create an administrative balance between Pakistan’s federating units.
Prime Minister Imran Khan used to criticize governments of the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) for neglecting the people of South Punjab before the general elections last year and he used to say that after coming to power he will remove the sense of deprivation and neglect of the people of south Punjab, which according to him remained mired in backwardness due to the failure of the governance system in the past, disregard for merit and inequitable distribution of resources.
According to Truth Tracker sources in the civil secretariat, the promised separate secretariat for the south Punjab province would be operational from July 1, 2019.
This new secretariat which is often termed as ‘mini secretariat’ by the bureaucracy is most likely to be established in Multan but another purposed site is Bahawalpur.
“PM Imran Khan will make the final decision and a smaller office of this new secretariat will also be established at the Club Road of Lahore,” said one of the secretary’s at the civil secretariat.
According to reliable Truth Tracker sources the working papers of the secretariat would be presented to Punjab’s Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar by April 15 which would formally kick start the construction work.
Another senior official working at civil secretariat told Truth Tracker that secretaries of the 18 departments that would function in the mini-secretariat have been asked to finalise staff for it. The secretariat would function under an additional chief secretary.
“Each department would be represented by a special secretary, having a team of two additional secretaries, four deputy secretaries and four section officers. Each team would have supporting staff,” he added.
Central PTI leader Jahangir Khan Tareen while talking to Truth Tracker confirmed that the new secretariat for the public of South Punjab would be operational from July 1st.
“The PTI government is burning the midnight oil for the creation of South Punjab province and it would be carved out in the tenure of PTI government,” Mr. Tareen said in a confident tone.
While pointing the hurdles in the creation of the new province, Mr, Tareen said that the approval for water share and the share of the National Finance Commission (NFC) Award for South Punjab would be taken from the Senate.
Talking to Truth Tracker, Pakistan Seraiki Party chairperson Dr Nukhbah Taj Langah said the PTI has made a false promise for creating a new Seraiki province but they could not fulfill it after coming into power. The fear of losing the support of Punjab and dividing its economy giving more weight to Seraiki area will be a setback for its self-imposed hegemony. This is the biggest hurdle for any government starts debating the creation of a fifth province. This indicates that like all the other parties in power, even for PTI, this was merely a tactic to secure the vote bank from Seraiki region.
Dr. Langah added that the recent direction given to create a secretariat will barely fulfill the demand of political representation of a language, culture and identity. If the entire control of the secretariat remains in the hands of Lahori ruling elite then the plight of Seraiki people will never end.
In the current scenario, we will continue a peaceful protest and struggle for the Seraiki province until our objective is achieved.
“We believe Pakistan constitutes diverse communities and this diversity is its strength. Regional identities add to the strength of the Federation and hence need to be acknowledged,” said Dr. Langah
Instead of wasting time, PTI government should introduce a clear line of action that can address the grievances and factual problems of Seraiki public. There should be some visible and progressive efforts like announcing new medical facilities, establishing education sector, introducing progressive reforms and establishing job venues in this area.
She added that PTI should not be following vague directions or they will lose their vote bank from Seraiki region in the next election. It is a sad reality that despite his progressive approach to life in general, PM IK has failed to take independent decisions when it comes to the issue of creating the Seraiki province.
Agreeing with her, Senior PML-N leader and former governor Sindh Muhammad Zubair told Truth Tracker that PTI government cannot go for separate province for South Punjab. If done, it will mean the return of takhte lahore to PML-N. Exclude south Punjab and PML-N has a comfortable majority in the rest of Punjab. Imran khan can’t do this.
“By the way when senior journalists/anchors met IK in the first week of December and someone asked this question on south Punjab. IK abruptly responded by saying that we can go for early elections,” Mr. Zubair recalled.
Talking to Truth Tracker, Lahore-based analyst Ahsan Raza, who has deep connections in south Punjab areas, said that election promises are taken most of the time to please the public, and mostly to carry the day, without looking much into the post-election scenario.
“The issue of the south Punjab province is one such thing, which is hard to swallow and equally hard to disown for the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI),” he smiled.
“The results of the July 25 polls were a bit weird for the party in a sense that though it won Punjab, it was not a landslide. Its arch-rival Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N), in fact, won more Punjab Assembly seats from the PTI but that was not a clear cut majority to form the government.”
Both parties – the PTI and the PML-N – needed the support of independent candidates and the PTI won over the independents and formed the government. Now, the situation demands that the PTI rule incumbent Punjab for five years to make it a GT Road party too.
“The central part of Punjab is still under the PML-N influence. In case, the PTI goes for the south Punjab province right now, it will only rule the newly created province, but leftover Punjab will go to the PML-N, which will provide it with enough space to make a comeback in the next elections,” says Mr Raza. “In such a situation, the PTI wants to keep on continuing with the status quo for the next four years and when one year is left in power, it will spring into action for the creation of the south Punjab province. The likely scenario then will be that the PML-N will oppose the move. Without the PML-N support, the demarcation of the new province is unlikely. Then, the PTI will again seek public support for the new province in the polls 2023. It is quite premature to predict that what will be a public response in those elections.”
After thorough investigation by Truth Tracker and going through the statement of PTI’s central leader and that of leaders from the opposition Truth Tracker rules that PTI’s promise for the creation of South Punjab province is underway.