After the inception of the 18 th amendment, wave for the formation of a province in the southern region of Punjab emerged in the national political arena. There are many factors that are behind the stimulation of this demand and the unequal allocation of budget between central and southern districts of Punjab remains the basic reason. Over the last decade, the previous two democratic governments including the recent one kept the formation of this province on their election manifestos. But it remained a mere election slogan and nothing substantial occurred in the form of legislative action. The basic driving force behind this voice is the discrimination that South Punjab faces in department of the budget allocation and resource management.
Since 1970, the Seraiki speaking people of the region are voicing out their concerns over their historical cultural difference from the central and northern region of Punjab. And this resentment in not based on some imagined sense of persecution rather this argument is based on the right of political representation. Basically there is another dimension to this issue that whether the princely state of Bahawalpur should be reestablished to its status or one single administrative unit should be formed with its capital in Multan or Bahawalpur?
In the last government the allocated budget for the south Punjab was diverted towards the mighty development projects in the heart of Lahore. This triggered the general masses quite evidently as they perceive this as the form of suppression that is being carried out on them from the Takht e Lahore.
The southern Punjab region is loosely defined by the districts of Multan, D G khan and Bahawalpur. It is the most backward area of Punjab in terms of development, poor infrastructure, fragile communication networks and large power gaps on municipal levels. Owing to these factors the heart of the people of South Punjab are filled with so much enmity and dissent towards the treatment that central districts of Punjab enjoy and the ignorance that they have to experience while traveling from the one corner of Punjab towards Lahore ,that is hundreds of kilometers away, for simple departmental procedure in the secretariat building.
The province of South Punjab has been on the agenda of various national parties, but they certainly lack the desire for implementation either intentionally or unintentionally. The last two governments of PPP and PMLN respectively, rarely dealt with specific public issues and ignored the demand after the elections. The local agenda of the people of South Punjab is being recognized by the mainstream stakeholders but it needs more than just recognition. A strong and concrete effort to put up the case of the people in the legislative assembly is the prime requirement of this issue. The suppression that people feel due to the extra attention in terms of funds and budget given to the central Punjab need to be addressed earnestly.
The current government of Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf has advocated for the south Punjab province throughout their election campaign and now this is the time to materialize their promise as they would not face any opposition from the other parties of the legislative assemblies. When Usman Buzdar, an MPA hailing from the most remote area of Tehsil Taunsa Sharief was selected for the Chief minister ship of the province by Imran khan, many termed that decision as the symbolic step that the current government would somehow show the serious attention that this issue requires. The formation of this province would hopefully lead towards the distinctive and equal flow of budget and resources towards South from center. The exclusive council of the government on this issue is quite active and according to the representatives of the Punjab government the separate civil secretariat would be functional from 1st July in Multan. Now this depends on the Government that how it is going to deal with the administrative functioning of that secretariat. This is the high time to start the legal process for the province in the legislative assemblies but before that the states needs to converge various stakeholder of the south on the same page that whether they want one province in the region or two.
The people of the south Punjab are looking forward to the promises that have been made regarding the establishment of province. There is the hope that this time their wishes and emotions will bear fruit and they would not be tackled by the cosmetic steps rather they will witness some concrete and remedial steps towards the direction of the creation of their separate Province.
The writer is the student of Fatima Jinnah University, Rawalpindi