Shehbaz seeks PTI govt’s support for creation of South Punjab province

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ISLAMABAD: Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif on Thursday declared that the PML-N was ready to extend its “full cooperation” for the creation of a South Punjab province and the restoration of the Bahawalpur province in Punjab.
Taking the floor, the PML-N president said his party was considering tabling a private bill for this purpose and demanded that the government extend support in this regard.
Sharif said the PTI had also promised to create the South Punjab province and it should now take steps for its implementation. “Don’t run away from the [creation of the] province; the government itself had promised it,” Sharif reminded the treasury benches.
He also assured the government of his unconditional support for the project. “We are ready to establish the southern Punjab province with our heart and soul,” he added.
When PTI lawmaker Amir Dogar accused the opposition parties of “point scoring” on the issue, Sharif responded by saying, “This is not point scoring. Don’t talk about the past or a Pandora’s box will open […] support the private bill [for the creation of the province].”
Dogar was of the view that the PML-N was politicking on the the issue by seeking the restoration of the Bahawalpur province.
“The Bahawalpur province is not viable: how can three districts be declared a separate province?” he asked, adding that a committee should be constituted to look into the matter.
Also speaking on the matter, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi called for a political consensus over the issue.
Taking the floor, he suggested that a parliamentary committee comprising the senior leadership of all political parties be constituted to look into the pros and cons of bifurcating Punjab. Meanwhile, the lawmakers should avoid political point scoring on this matter, he requested.
Qureshi also invited all political parties to support the PTI government in the Punjab Assembly, the National Assembly, and the Senate for the creation of the South Punjab province.
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari claimed the credit for highlighting the issue of South Punjab province, saying he was proud that the PPP had taken up the issue of creation of provinces.
“We will get support for the bill in the Senate as well as the National Assembly,” he said and hoped that the PTI government will not back off from the issue.
Meanwhile, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-(Fazl) lawmaker Maulana Abdul Wasay cautioned that every step for the creation of a new province should be taken with great care, as it may lead to new demands for the creation of more provinces out of other federating units.
Taking part in the debate, PPP Leader Raja Pervaiz Ashraf said all political parties had promised the creation of a South Punjab province and no point scoring should be done in this regard.
Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) leader Tariq Bashir Cheema, however, called for the creation of the Bahawalpur province instead of the South Punjab province.
He suggested a referendum be held in Bahawalpur to establish whether the people wanted a Bahawalpur province or a South Punjab province.
“Bahawalpur is a separate entity having nothing to do with the South Punjab province,” Cheema said, adding that he was in favour of restoring the Bahawalpur province instead of making it part of a larger South Punjab province.
“The speeches of the prime minister are on the record [in which he] promised to create the Bahawalpur province,” the PML-Q leader said.

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