–JPSM leader Khusro Bakhtiar says Imran Khan has accepted their chief demand of creating South Punjab province
–Imran Khan says he believes administering big units is ‘very difficult’, slams other parties for not fulfilling promises
–Rules out forging alliances with any other party except JUI-S in KP
–Khusro Bakhtiar says ethnicity not the basis of demand for separate Southern Punjab province
ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) lawmakers from South Punjab, who recently parted ways with the ruling party, announced joining the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on Wednesday, reinforcing the party’s hold in South Punjab and animating chances of creation of a separate South Punjab province.
The announcement was made by MNA from Rahim Yar Khan and leader of Janubi Punjab Suba Mahaaz (JPSM), Khusro Bakhtiar, who heads a group of national and provincial lawmakers.
Addressing a press conference alongside PTI chief Imran Khan, Khusro Bakhtiar said that Imran had promised to create a separate South Punjab province, which was the chief demand of JPSM. “On April 29, under the shadow of Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore, Imran Khan promised to make a separate South Punjab province.”
Speaking on the occasion, the PTI chief said, “You would remember that a lot of parties before me promised a South Punjab province but did not deliver.”
Explaining why he supports the demand, Imran said that he believes that administering big units is very difficult. “A separate province is not enough and we will form a committee to solve South Punjab’s issues.”
“I have been to Switzerland and people are the happiest there because they have 25 cantons for a population which is less than Lahore. Each canton makes their own decisions after hearing the demands of their people,” Imran said while asserting that administering large provinces is difficult.
In an apparent reference to PML-N, he said, “Parties have been making promises for years but never fulfilling them. Some came into power thrice and still say if they get one more chance they will make a new Pakistan.”
People from cities across Punjab are moving and doing business in Lahore because the government only invests there, he said, adding that the government only invests in Lahore because it’s close to Raiwind.
The PTI chief acknowledged that there is a sense of deprivation in Punjab and other cities are suffering because of focus on investment in Lahore.
Stating that making a province is not easy, Imran highlighted the need for a separate province for South Punjab and the merger of FATA with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). “We will also expedite FATA’s merger into KP,” he said.
Imran also stressed the need for a local government system. “Local government system is very important otherwise people will not get good governance,” he added.
The PTI chief further said, “A genuinely empowered local government system is the answer for the people of Pakistan,” adding, “there is a mess in Karachi because the local government there is not empowered.”
Responding to a question regarding ‘aliens’ that former premier Nawaz Sharif speaks of, Imran said, “Just look at the Asghar Khan case.”
“Look at the case and you will find out how poor Nawaz received Rs3.5 million.” He added, “The case will also show you who the favourite is.”
“You would also know how much Shahbaz Sharif, Javed Hashmi received, and who the ladla (blue-eyed boy) was,” he added. Khan further claimed that the Asghar Khan case was never entertained by the judiciary of the time as it would have led to the disqualification of Sharif.
“Asghar Khan was a giant in Pakistan politics, but no judiciary entertained him because his lawsuit was against the ladla, who would then have been disqualified,” he said. “These celestial beings they are talking about, they’re talking from their own experience,” Khan said.
“The way they were turned from businessmen to ‘manufactured’ politicians, they think all others are like them too.”
The PTI chief further said that the party has no plans of joining hands with any political party, adding that his party will only enter into an alliance with Maulana Samiul Haq in KP.
Addressing the press conference, Khusro Bakhtiar said, “We presented our case for a separate province on April 9 and Imran Khan while presenting his 11-point agenda mentioned the creation of South Punjab province as his eighth point.”
“Since the PML-N pay heed to our demands for a separate province, who should we have gone to?” asked the JPSM leader. “PPP also raised the slogan for a separate South Punjab province but failed to fulfil its promise,” he added.
Later in the day, Bakhtiar explained that ethnicity was not the basis of the demand for a separate Southern Punjab province.
Speaking to a private news channel, he said, “We never put forward the demand for a new province on an ethnic basis,” he reiterated, adding that he would withdraw his demand upon any hint of ethnic prejudice.
“People of South Punjab do not support PML-N anymore,” he said.
Bakhtiar said renewed efforts had been made to put forward the demand for a new province so visits had been made and consultations about Zone 1 and Zone 2 were underway by the ruling party.
PML-N’s Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, however, alleged that the issue of a new province was not as simple as it seemed to be.
“What is being portrayed is different from reality,” said Chaudhry. “Why didn’t they raise their voice when they were in the Cabinet if their demand for the South Punjab province was sincere.” The PML-N leader warned the opposition against using the people of South Punjab for their own gains, he said and added, “You are free to become part of any political party but do not fool the people of South Punjab.”
Meanwhile, Pir of Golra Sharif also announced his support for the PTI for the upcoming general elections.