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May 16, 2019

S Punjab province: Government seeks opposition support

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May 16, 2019

MULTAN: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Wednesday said the government had introduced the South Punjab bill in the National Assembly and sought the help of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) to get it passed.

During a news conference here, Qureshi said the bill moved by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government would require amendments in articles 1, 51, 59, 106, 198, 218 of the Constitution. He said the new province would comprise Multan, Bahawalpur and Dera Ghazi Khan divisions. He said the South Punjab Assembly would have 120 seats, while the Upper Punjab will be left with 251 seats.

“We have to make the amendments to make the South Punjab province a reality,” he said, and appealed to the masses to boycott the elements putting impediments in passage of the bill.

The minister added that the PTI government had contacted the PML-N, PPP and other parties in the parliament over the South Punjab province as two-thirds majority was required. “I have contacted senior parliamentarians from the PPP as they also had the stance for South Punjab…I have told them to work together to make this a reality and have received a positive response from them,” he said.

The minister said several members of the PML-N supported the South Punjab province, but there were others who were stuck on the bill they had presented in the past which was about the Bahawalpur province.

“We will also speak to the PML-N and I will request them to review their decision and let South Punjab be formed. They (PML-N) need to be practical as a province of three districts is not possible,” he said.

Qureshi said that in the coming session, the PTI leaders would meet Khursheed Shah, Naveed Qamar and Raja Pervaiz Ashraf to discus the South Punjab province. Qureshi said that they would try their best to pursue other political parties, including the PML-N, to create a consensus on the South Punjab province which would strengthen the Federation further. Shah Mehmood also thanked Law Minister Farogh Naseem, Planning Minister Khusro Bakhtiar, Mir Balkh Sher Mazari, Nasrullah Dareshak, Rana Qasim Noon, Samiul Hassan Gilani, Pir Zahoor Hussain Qureshi and others for carrying out consultancy in the preparation of the bill and cooperation towards the South Punjab province. The foreign minister also thanked Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar for earmarking funds in the upcoming budget for South Punjab Secretariat.

To a query about the establishment of South Punjab Secretariat, Qureshi observed that the site for the secretariat would soon be discussed. To another question, the minister said people from South Punjab gave mandate to the PTI for a new province. He said the PML-Q leader Tariq Bashir Cheema was also aware of the PTI manifesto when his party entered into an alliance with the PTI. He said the PTI will follow its manifesto and continue to move forward.

To another question about amnesty scheme, Qureshi maintained that it was not amnesty scheme, rather it was an asset declaration scheme. He said the scheme did not mean generating revenue, but it was aimed to document the economy.

He, however, clarified that those who had been enjoying public offices for the last 10 years would not take advantage from the scheme. The minister said the PTI government was bringing reforms in the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and recently a well reputed tax expert had been deputed as the FBR chairman.

He said the government would continue to offer subsidy on electricity and gas in order to give relief to common man. About security of Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the minister said the Maulana was a respectable politician and the government was duty bound to provide him security. He added that the Maulana’s security had been rationalised only. He, however, stated that if they themselves would pick arms for security then it would lead to fanning private militia which was negation of the National Action Plan (NAP).

To another question about India, the minister observed that they would try to engage new Indian government for talks. About Pak-Iran gas pipeline project, Qureshi said that Pakistan wished to avail gas, but Iran was under sanctions. He said Pakistan needs huge funds to execute the project and international financial institutions did not provide funds due to sanctions on Iran.

About issue of marriages by Chinese nationals in Pakistan, the minister said Pakistan was in contact with Chinese government on the issue. He said some powers wanted to damage Pak-China relationships. -- Agencies Muhammad Anis adds: Reacting to Shah Mehmood’s statement, the PML-N asked the government to stop befooling people in the name of South Punjab.

The PML-N General Secretary Ahsan Iqbal said Shah Mehmood was fooling people for the sake of political gains. The PML-N leader said the foreign minister should remember the fact that the N-League had already introduced a bill for creation of Janubi Punjab province in the National Assembly which was pending with the concerned standing committee of the House. He said the same bill was opposed by the PTI.

“Instead of introducing a new bill, the minister should ask the government representatives to expedite work on the existing bill, tabled in House. He maintained that it was only the PML-N which could fulfil promises made before the Parliament and with masses.

It may be pointed out here that two PTI parliamentarians on Monday introduced a Constitution (Amendment) bill for creation of South Punjab province comprising Multan, Bahawalpur and Dera Ghazi Khan divisions.

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