`South Punjab` demand gains momentum in Pakistan

The creation of new provinces, especially South Punjab, is being vigorously debated on talk shows on TV news channels and in the media.

Lahore: The proposal to carve out a new
province of South Punjab from Pakistan`s most populous and
politically crucial state of Punjab has gained momentum, with
all parties except the ruling PML-N agreeing to it.

Following a resolution moved by the PML-Q to create a new
province comprising 11 districts in the Seraiki-speaking belt,
the Punjab Assembly will debate the matter when it meets on
August 11 for a session requisitioned by the Pakistan People`s

The creation of new provinces, especially South Punjab, is
being vigorously debated on talk shows on TV news channels and
in the media.

President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza
Gilani and Punjab Governor Latif Khosa, all leaders of the
PPP, have underlined the need for new provinces on
administrative grounds.

Former premier Nawaz Sharif, whose PML-N party rules
Punjab, has constituted a committee of party members to come
up with recommendations on the issue.

Javed Hashmi, a senior vice-president of the PML-N who has
been sidelined by the party, has not only backed the move to
create South Punjab but called for dividing Punjab, a province
of over 90 million people, into four provinces.

However, Sharif and his brother Shahbaz, the Chief
Minister of Punjab, fear the PML-N will lose power if the new
provinces are created.

Some analysts have described the PPP and the PML-Q`s
support for the move to create South Punjab as a clever ploy
to take on the PML-N in its stronghold of Punjab.

Governor Khosa said the revenue generated by the southern
part of Punjab is being spent in Lahore and other districts.
"When we talk about creation of new provinces, we are
accused of fanning ethnicity. The Seraiki belt has only one
major hospital, which is not fair," he said.

Khosa reasoned that if all units are equal, the federation
will be strengthened.

"The Sharifs should sit with us and we will remove their
apprehensions about the creation of new provinces," he said.
He, however, warned if Punjab is not divided into two
provinces, Lahore will become like Karachi.

He was referring to the political strife and ethnic
killings that have rocked the southern port city over the past
few weeks.

"The people of under-developed districts have the same
right on Pakistan as those of major cities like Karachi,
Lahore and Islamabad," Khosa said.

Federal Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan said: "If
the PML-N throws the PML-Q`s resolution (in the assembly for
creating South Punjab) in the dustbin, the people will reject
the Sharifs".

The creation of a new province will help redress
grievances of people living in under-developed districts of
Punjab, she said.

"After the creation of small provinces, the federation
will get strengthened," she added.

PML-Q president and former premier Chaudhry Shujaat
Hussain said the creation of South Punjab had become
inevitable and those opposing it will have no future in

"The Sharifs should not oppose the move only because of
the apprehension that they may not have power there (South
Punjab)," he said.


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