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PML-N’s South Punjab dilemma

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) would advocate an agenda of carving one more province out of Punjab and Sindh each if it came to power in the next elections, parliamentarians from southern Punjab were assured during a consultative meeting here on Tuesday.

A day after eight legislators quit the PML-N over differences on not legislating for a Seraiki province, the party called parliamentarians from southern Punjab to Lahore for a consultative meeting with Shehbaz Sharif, the party’s newly-elected president.

All parliamentarians were allowed to voice their concerns.

MNA Syed Muhammad Saqlain Shah Bukhari from NA-182 (Layyah-II) said the party leadership pledged to push forward the agenda of two separate provinces – one each in Punjab and Sindh. He said the party would get the relevant legislation approved with or without the required majority.

According to Bukhari, the party would later push forward the agenda of creating a separate province in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa – the Hazara province.  He contended that although some of those who quit the party had done so because of personal reasons, others had been forced to do so.

Several others, he said, were also being pushed to quit the party.

According to Muhammad Khan Daha, MNA from NA-157 (Khanewal-II), most of those who quit the party had been denied party tickets. He said the PML-N had done a lot for southern Punjab in education and health sectors and providing them civic amenities.

Shehbaz, the Punjab Chief Minister, said that the PML-N had so far presented two resolutions in the Punjab Assembly for restoring Bahawalpur state and creating southern Punjab province, adding that the PML-N had got these resolutions approved.

“Unlike other political parties, we [at the PML-N] are committed to the demand of creating new provinces,” he said, adding that southern Punjab was given more development funds in relation to its population.

Shehbaz said that Fort Munro was being developed as a tourist resort. He said that marked improvements had been made in various sectors in southern Punjab, including health, education and infrastructure development.

During the current fiscal year, 36 per cent of the ADP was being spent on southern Punjab, he said, adding that development projects worth Rs229 billion were being completed in southern Punjab.

The Punjab CM said a 10 per cent quota had been fixed for southern Punjab in all government schemes, including Apna Roozgar. He said that avoiding confrontation and agitation was in the larger national interest.

Those who called on the CM included Federal Minister Sardar Awais Khan Leghari, Minister of State Abdul Rehman Kanjo, MNAs Sardar Amjad Farooq Khan Khosa, Malik Sultan Mehmood Hunjra, Sardar Ashique Hussain Gopang, MPA Zeshan Gurmani and former MNA Saddique Khan Baloch.

Provincial Minister Rana Mashhood Ahmad and Special Assistant to CM Malik Muhammad Ahmad Khan also attend the meeting.

The Express Tribune

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