Saraiki province slogan brightens PPP’s prospects in southern Punjab

 By Muhammad Akram

LAHORE: The ruling PPP has rebuked slipshod PML-N’s support to the creation of Saraiki province in southern Punjab by announcing that the new federating unit would be created purely on linguistic basis and not on the administrative lines.

This bold political decision by the PPP at a time when general elections are said to be around the corner not just provided it with a fitting political slogan to address over 15 million Saraiki speaking but further gel its proposed electoral alliance with PML-Q, which had been supporting the Saraiki province cause even before the PPP itself.

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"Saraiki Card"

Following the grand victory of his son in by-election to a seat vacated by Shah Mehmud Qureshi Prime Minister Gilani's triumphal return to his hometown, Multan, was very much expected, and it was so.

During his two-day stay over the weekend elation that copiously oozed from his comments, media encounters and press talks was palpable, often bordering on crass exaggeration.

He insisted there would be no 'caretaker or chair-taker' and neither was he going 'upward or downward, inside or outside' and would certainly complete his term ending next year - though his continuity hangs in the balance as he is charged with contempt of court offence.

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The Danger of New Provinces

Rustam Shah Mohmand

Danger of New Provinces PhotoIn a country with massive illiteracy coupled, with virtual non-existence of institutions, it is easy to camouflage motives, dodge the electorate, divert attention from the pressing issues of security, lawlessness and economic deprivation, and the daily humiliations that the vast majority of Pakistanis have to endure. The electorate, in a display of disregard for candidates’ moral credentials, voted the same politicians into office who were even proved to have produced fake degrees for meeting the eligibility criterion for running for Assemblies.

In such a situation if reference is made to the people of a particular area or region, seeking their views on the creation of a new province for them, there would be an overwhelming positive response to the proposal.

To say nothing of the Seraiki belt or Hazara, even cities and areas like Rawalpindi, Jhelum, Malakand, Bannu, Hyderabad, Karachi, Loralai and Gwadar would vote with huge majorities for being made capital cities of new provinces. Would such a decision be acceptable to the country?

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No Need for Further Divisions

Photo of Rasul Baksh RaisRasul Bakhsh Rais

A Seraik­i provin­ce may provok­e furthe­r narrow divisi­ons rather than bring the divers­e ethnic commun­ities togeth­er. 

The southern and western parts of Punjab are essentially agrarian, tribal and feudal in character. The social and economic landscape of the regions that have acquired an artificial Seraiki identity haven’t changed, but the changes have remained within the old historical pattern. The pattern is essentially paternalistic, socially hierarchical and in terms of economic class structure, polarised between landless peasants and big landlords.

Let me explain some changes and then argue why they are currently too insignificant to alter this historical pattern. Two economic changes in some parts of this region are very important. One, overseas employment, mainly in the Gulf has pushed some poor sections several notches up to the urban, middle class ranks, owing to influx of remittances. Second, the agricultural production and rising prices of commodities have raised living standards of small- and medium-size landowners. The proliferation of small- and medium-size landowners is itself a huge change in areas where the big landowning families have dominated the economic, social and political life.

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The Politics of New Provinces

Shahab Usto

THE movement for the creation of new provinces took a rather serious turn with the MQM recently introducing the 20th constitutional amendment bill in the National Assembly.

The bill seeks new provinces, which would be carved out from Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, by amending, inter alia, Article 239 that requires a tough “no less than two-thirds” majority in the provincial assembly of the province concerned.

The fact that the framers of the 1973 constitution had laid an almost insurmountable barrier to altering the provincial boundaries betrays a quest for structural certainty in the backdrop of the break-up of the state.

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More Provinces

 Danish Hassan

For the last several months, there has been a persistent demand from different quarters for creation of more provinces in the Federation. The renaming of NWFP as Khyber Pakhtunkhawa acted as a catalyst and the process began with the people of Hazara declaring that since they were not Pashtuns, they must break away from the re-named province and have a separate province of their own. For the same reason, political leaders of D.I Khan wanted their region to be a part of the proposed Seraiki Province for which a movement had existed on and off for the past several years. In contrast, many politicians of Bahawalpur don’t want to be a part of the Seraiki province despite the commonality of language and want, on the other hand, that the erstwhile princely state be a province on its own, calling it a restoration of its earlier status, just as of other provinces, on the dissolution of One Unit.

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