–Qureshi denies South Punjab secretariat will be established in Bahawalpur
ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Saturday urged opposition parliamentarians from South Punjab to collaborate with the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government for the creation of a separate province.
“You say you want a South Punjab province. If you truly want this, give us proof. Join the government, don’t just make statements, step forward practically and assist us,” he said, adding: “Take credit for it if you want, we are not opposed to that, but let us move forward [through political consencus].”
On Wednesday, Qureshi had announced that a bill will be tabled in the National Assembly for the creation of the South Punjab province.
“Keeping in view the concept of devolution of power — and for the ease of people from the province — the decision to create a secretariat in the region has been taken,” Qureshi had said.
Addressing a press conference in Multan on Saturday, the foreign minister said: “Refrain from adopting the mindset that we will not do anything, nor allow anything to be done. Only if the people of this area work together, can this move forward.
“If we remain entangled [fighting] each other, we may be able to score political points, but we will not be able to achieve our goal. Now, the decision has to be made by the people and their elected representatives.”
The foreign minister also clarified that claims of the secretariat being established in Bahawalpur were false. “I am categorically saying that such a decision was not taken.”
He said that the decision of where to establish the secretariat will be made by the South Punjab Assembly. “Keeping in mind needs, merit and feasibility, it [the assembly] will make an informed decision. But in order to move forward, it has been decided to have one part of the secretariat in Bahawalpur and one in Multan.”
The foreign minister said that by doing so, the government had demonstrated a “determined, political decision”.
“In the future, no one will be able to reverse this decision.”
Commenting on South Punjab’s representation in the Senate, Qureshi maintained that this was only possible if the region becomes a federating unit.
Elaborating on his point, he added that only federating units can claim funds from the National Finance Commission (NFC).
“Since we want to move forward, we have decided that 35 percent of the funds from Punjab’s annual development program will be allocated for South Punjab.”
He maintained that in the past, governments had made allocations for the southern districts. However, that money was later reappropriated.
“To prevent this, it has been decided that development funds for South Punjab will only be spent in the province’s southern districts.” All these decisions show the PTI’s serious attitude towards this matter, he maintained.