For separate province
SOME political leaders from southern Punjab endorsed the demand to divide Punjab into two provinces. A debate has started after the statement of Parliamentary Affairs Minister Dr Sher Afgan that the proposal of dividing Punjab is under consideration.
Talking to Dawn Syed Fakhar Imam, ex speaker of the National Assembly, said that the government is trying to divert the people’s attention from the Balochistan crisis, especially the killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti through such proposals. But if they think that the division could decrease the sense of deprivation among the people of this belt and if they have decided to divide Punjab, the better way for it is to hold a referendum in the area in which people are demanding a separate province.
He said that southern Punjab was kept deprived of development funds, educational and health facilities and there was no quota for it in superior services, and this demand for a separate province is the result of the sense of deprivation among the people of this belt who are being exploited.
He criticised the federal government for not giving equal rights and employment opportunities to the provinces and said that Punjab is not responsible but the increasing hatred against it is due to the wrong policies of the federal government.
He said that the sense of deprivation among the people always rose during military rule, so the continuity of political process was necessary for the country which could not exist without a democratic system. He said that personally he thought that a separate province should be established.
PML-N Punjab President Sardar Zulfiqar Khan Khosa said that one man’s decision would not be acceptable.
He said if somebody thought that the division of provinces can improve the development situation of deprived areas, then he must seek the opinion of the people and let the people decide through a referendum, which would be without doubt a correct decision. He avoided expressing his opinion whether he was in favour of a separate province.
Demanding the formation of fifth province “Seraikistan”, Hameed Asghar Shaheen, president, Seraikistan Qaumi Movement, called for greater provincial autonomy according to the 1940 Resolution, adding that a Seraiki province should be included in the proposed amendments to the Constitution.
He termed the proposal of making each division a separate province imprudent and said it would not solve the problems of Seraikis. He demanded implementation of 1940 Resolution to resolve differences among the provinces, adding that elections should be held under the 1940 Resolution instead of the 1973 Constitution.
Pakistan Seraiki Party chief Taj Muhammad Langah said that historically the Seraiki belt was never part of Punjab. It was a separate country or a separate province in 1818 and during the Mughal rule it was an independent province.
He said the Seraiki people had been facing the worst kind of injustice and exploitation but now they would not tolerate such a treatment. He demanded that a Seraiki province should be established immediately.
Hameed Asghar Shaheen claimed that there are over 50 million Seraikis in Pakistan and most of them reside in Bahawalpur, Multan, Dera Ghazi Khan and Sargodha divisions alone.
Previously in 1973, Riaz Hashmi had formed the Seraiki Suba Mahaz in Bahawalpur. Demand for a separate province is being echoed by a number of other Seraiki parties. Some of them are included in Jag Seraik Party, Seraiki Qaumi Inqalabi Party, Seraiki Qomi Tehrik, Pakistan Seraiki Party, Seraikistan National Front, Seraiki Mazdoor Mahaz, Seraiki Inqalabi Council, Seraikistan National Mahaz, Seraiki Qomi Movement, Seraiki Democratic Party, Pasban People’s Seraiki Party, Seraiki Qomi Ittehad, Seraiki Awami Sangat, Seraiki Lok Sanjh, Seraiki National Party and Seraikistan Qomi Movement.
Within the Punjab region the Seraiki claim that they are one of the larger communities which have a separate culture, language and history.
Dawn, 22 Sep 2006