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ITU launches report on S Punjab province
« on: December 18, 2020, 05:15:47 PM »
ITU launches report on S Punjab province
LAHORE:18 December:The Centre for Governance and Policy at IT University Lahore launched its report ‘South Punjab: Why Still a Dream’ the other day on the history, present status, and future issues concerning the creation of a province or provinces in the south of Punjab.

Written by Research Fellow, Abdul Wasay, the policy brief discusses in detail the inception of the Siraiki language movement in Pakistan, and how the Siraiki province movement originated as a demand for the restoration of the Bahawalpur State (which had achieved the status of a province in 1952) in 1970 after the dissolution of the One Unit.

After 1970, the Siraiki province movement became political and successive political parties electioneered over the issue to little tangible change, the policy brief argues. It then traces the political and constitutional debate over the creation of a new province(s) in southern Punjab over the last decade.

A policy dialogue was also held as part of the research, with Mohsin Leghari, the Punjab Irrigation Minister representing the PTI, Ali Haider Gillani representing the PPP, Awais Leghari representing the PMLN, and Professor Rasul Baksh Rais from LUMS and Mazhar Arif from the civil society.

Later, input was also taken from scholar Dr Ayesha Siddiqa, former Senator Sughra Imam and Prince Bahawal Khan of Bahawalpur. MPA Ali Gillani argued if the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa can have their province named after their major ethnicity, why can’t there be a ‘Siraiki’ province. He noted that it was only the PPP which has ever taken action for the creation of a South Punjab province and even got a constitutional amendment passed in the Senate in 2013.

‘It was our friends in PML-N that didn’t support it and therefore it could not pass in the National Assembly,’ he pointed out. Sardar Awais Leghari, former federal minister, argued that language alone cannot be the marker for the new province as people from different linguistic groups live in South Punjab.

Speaking on the support of the PML-N to the restoration of the Bahawalpur province, Awais Leghari noted: ‘We will support a referendum in Bahawalpur to ask the people if they want a separate province or want just one province in South Punjab.’

Representing the civil society, activist Mazhar Arif underscored the critical role of the youth, farmers and literati in the struggle for Siraiki rights. Professor Rasul Baksh Rais from LUMS then added that the treatment meted to the region of Multan after annexation by Lahore in 1818, created a deep sense of resentment which still exists to this day. He argued that there should be no problem with the creation of two provinces in southern Punjab, as both Multan and Bahawalpur have their own identity.

Mohsin Leghari, the Punjab Irrigation Minister, renewed the commitment of his party and government to the creation of South Punjab. He noted that the ‘sense of deprivation in South Punjab started when Nawaz Sharif became the Chief Minister of the Punjab in the 1980s and development funds began to be diverted to in and around Lahore.’

Giving details of the plans of the PTI government in the Punjab, he stated that an efficient mechanism for the South Punjab Secretariat has been planned where the tiers of administrative machinery would be consolidated and an electronic file system introduced.

Commenting on delay in bringing about legislation on South Punjab, Mohsin Leghari said that ‘at present the government is in unchartered territory as a new province has never been created in Pakistan.’ However, he underscored ‘the biggest test was still the introduction of the constitutional amendment with the consent of other provinces.’

In conclusion, the policy brief noted several key outstanding issues which need to be resolved before a South Punjab province(s) can be created. The issue of one or two provinces has still not been resolved, the demarcation issue still remains, the name of the new province(s) is also unsettled, and questions regarding financial viability and especially issues around water sharing remain to be resolved.

The policy brief also pointed out that the long-standing literary movement has not been taken into confidence in the current discussions and this gap will create fissures as the issue moves forward.The news.
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