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Fleeting moments

September 8, 2020

A new province

Opinion

September 8, 2020

The South Punjab secretariat has been made functional. A list of senior bureaucrats has appeared in different newspapers.

Politicians from south Punjab had been demanding to create a new province out of the Saraiki belt for quite some time now. Yousuf Raza Gillani, when he was prime minister said that the creation of new provinces was the need of the hour and if a Saraiki province was not created during the tenure of a Saraiki-speaking prime minister, when would it happen, if ever? The province is shaping up, let’s see how it functions.

Establishing secretariat is one part of the story and what bureaucratic setups deliver to the public is another. The experience shows that instead of providing better administration, the bureaucracy begins to eye new cushy postings and authority. Whenever new districts, divisions and in this case, the creation of a province, are under consideration, it’s the bureaucracy that begins to eye new opportunities for plum postings and promotions.

A glaring example is that of Dera Ghazi Khan that was once the largest district. It was converted into a division that comprise DG Khan, Rajanpur, Layyah and Muzaffargarh districts. When DG Khan was made a division only the number of bureaucrats and allied government officials multiplied, including their residential colonies, and luxury vehicles lined up. But has DG Khan developed after turning into a division? Only a little!

The unirrigated land in DG Khan could have been developed by building small dams to control and channelise seasonal rainwater gushing down from the Suleman Ranges into the plains and being wasted away. Amjad Farooq Khosa, an MNA from DGK, has been in politics for more than three decades. He explained how to use the hill torrent water by building small dams that would raise the water head, and develop lakes and springs to irrigate land and generate jobs.

He asserts that hill torrents of DG Khan and Rajanpur produce a hundred thousand cusecs of water that could be utilised to irrigate the land and turn the parched mountain range green. Amjad Khosa is a literary politician and a bibliophile with thousands of books lining his library. Since CM Usman Buzdar belongs to DG Khan, he may consult such members who are devoted to the cause of developing a network of small dams in the district.

The creation of new provinces with the sole purpose of area development, looking after public interest, and providing better services to people near their homes is an excellent idea. We have examples of other countries such as Australia and the US that have autonomous states or regions administered effectively without the dominance and interference of any central authority. Some thinly populated regional areas in Australia – Tasmania for instance – have their own rules applicable to the immigrants to settle down permanently.

Similarly, people in KP demand to make Hazara a province. They’re justified in asking for it so that their day-to-day problems could be addressed within the new province and they could avoid travelling all the way to Peshawar. Some have suggested establishing new provinces on the basis of social, cultural and historic values. It’s not advisable since it would set provincial boundaries on linguistic and ethnic lines. Instead, new provinces should be created with the sole purpose of the better administration and development of an area.

People in the Saraiki belt suffered from an acute sense of deprivation. They held the political leadership of the central Punjab responsible for it. When people from far-flung Taunsa or Rajanpur had to travel all the way to Lahore to get a solution to their problems, it meant a journey to another world. After the formation of a new province, their problems would be addressed near their homes. It is immaterial what name is assigned to the new province – South Punjab Province or Saraiki Province – but it is true that the province will go a long way in alleviating the miseries of the people living in underdeveloped districts.

The writer is a freelance columnist based in Lahore.

Email: [email protected]