–Defecting lawmakers to resign from assembly seats, say will work on one-point agenda for creation of South Punjab province
–Former caretaker PM Balakh Sher Mazari to head South Punjab Front, Khusro Bakhtiar appointed as president
–Bakhtiar says ‘ready for dialogue with any party’, will move SC if legislation for new province is not passed within first session of new assemblies
LAHORE: In a major setback to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), six members of the National Assembly (MNAs) and two members of the Punjab Assembly (MPAs) have decided to part ways with the ruling party and form a new political alliance by the name of South Punjab Front.
The announcement was made in a press conference by MNA Khusro Bakhtiar from Rahim Yar Khan along with other lawmakers, including MNA Tahir Bashir Cheema from Bahawalnagar, MNA Rana Qasim Noon from Multan, MNA Basit Bukhari from Muzaffargarh, MNA Tahir Iqbal Chaudhry from Vehari, MNA Alam Dar Laleka from Bahawalnagar, and MPAs Sardar Nasrullah Khan Dareshak from Rajanpur and Makhdoom Hashim Jawan Bakht from Rahim Yar Khan.
Pakistan Today, in its report on March 20, had already broken the news that a large number of incumbent and former lawmakers, especially from South Punjab, were ready to leave the ruling party.
Addressing the reporters, Bakhtiar demanded that the country be divided into new provinces “for the security of the future of the children of South Punjab”.
“New provincial demarcations are the need of the time. We are not here to start a rift — time has made the need for new provinces very apparent,” he said, adding that the demarcation of new provinces will ensure that funds allocated for Rajanpur are not given to Multan. “All we want is equality amongst the regions.”
“We have a single point agenda: the creation of a new province in South Punjab,” Bakhtiar said while announcing that he and the other defecting lawmakers would start the ‘South Punjab Front’ movement.
“The size of South Punjab is almost the same as Khyber Pakhtunkhawa. We have 46 MNAs in the assembly at the moment and yet, they barely give us one seat in the Senate,” he said, adding that the South Punjab Front will take its message to the people through the media, schools and people to people contact.
“It is natural that all of us want that each district flourishes, has better law and order situation, and a better education system. For these things to be achieved, we need more provinces,” he said.
Speaking of additions to the movement, Bakhtiar said, “We are ready for dialogue with any party. Our goal is simple. When the new assemblies take oath, the legislation for a new province should be passed within the first session, if that does not happen, we will go to the Supreme Court.”
Bakhtiar said that a total of six MNAs and two MPAs defecting from the PML-N will also be resigning from their posts soon.
The South Punjab Front will be headed by former acting prime minister Mir Balakh Sher Mazari. Sardar Nasrullah Khan will act as the co-chairman of the alliance whereas Khusro Bakhtiar will serve as the president.
Tahir Bashir Cheema will have the office of general secretary with Tahir Iqbal Chaudhry, Chaudhry Samiullah and Rana Qasim Noon will act as vice-presidents of the newly formed front. Basit Bukhari has been appointed senior vice-president of the newly formed political group.
Addressing the press conference, Tahir Basheer Cheema said, “This demand [for a new province] is not a new one, it is a demand our ancestors made and a demand our children will make.”
“It is time we are given equal rights,” Cheema said while adding that the demand for a new province is one that various South Punjab leaders have made throughout their time.
“This need [for a different province in South Punjab] is not a linguistic problem. Our demand is simply to safeguard our rights,” he added.
TWO MPAS TO CONTEST POLLS AS INDEPENDENTS:
On the occasion, two PML-N MPAs — Ali Asghar Manda and Tariq Mehmood Bajwa — announced they’ll be contesting for National Assembly seats as independent candidates.
Ali Asghar Manda has been a Member of the Punjab Assembly since 2008. He was elected to the Punjab Assembly as a candidate of PML-N from PP-165 Sheikhupura-IV constituency in the 2008 general elections and was re-elected in 2013.
Tariq Mehmood Bajwa has also been a Member of the Punjab Assembly since 2008. He was elected to the assembly from PP-170 Nankana Sahib-I constituency in general elections 2008 and re-elected in 2013.
Earlier in 2002, both the MPAs contested general elections as independent candidates but were not elected.
MORE DEFECTIONS LIKELY:
Pakistan Today had on March 20, broken the news that a large number of incumbent and former lawmakers were all set to defect from the ruling party.
The report had categorically mentioned that the Makhdooms of Rahimyar Khan, Cheemas and Shahs of Bahawalnagar, Noons from Shujaabad (Multan), Syeds and Herajs from Khanewal, Lalis from Jhang and Cheemas from Sargodha were among the influential families that had decided to leave the PML-N.
Sources in the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) had told Pakistan Today that their party was in contact with the political heavyweights in South Punjab and it was likely that many of them would join PTI before or after the general elections.
The ruling PML-N recently lost two Hindu MNAs to the PTI and PPP, respectively. Ramesh Kumar Vankani joined PTI while Bhawan Das joined the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) last week.
The ruling party has been hit by defections from a large number of lawmakers, some of whom had joined the government after winning the election as independent candidates, as confusion prevails over the party’s future, especially after the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif both from prime ministership and the party’s presidency in wake of the Panama Papers scandal.