The fallacy of Seraiki province

What has forced the government to launch a full-fledged campaign for the Seraiki province? From one angle it seems the PPP wants to make political gains by highlighting divisive issues.

From another it looks as if they have run out of ideas and need to drum up the issue of Seraiki province to brighten their chances in the elections after they miserably failed to help the Seraikis during the devastating floods.

Not a single rally or procession has so far been staged in support of the Seraiki province yet the government has launched a concerted campaign for it, completely ignoring the genuine demand for the restoration of the province of Bahawalpur, which the Quaid had promised.

Carving out a new province on linguistic basis will clearly encourage others to demand division of Sindh and Balochistan on the same basis. The people of Seraiki area remained deprived because of the powerful feudal landlords and Sardars of their area, who were not only elected to the provincial and federal legislatures but also held top constitutional offices including that of president, prime minister, federal ministers, governors, provincial ministers, chief ministers but did nothing for the poor people of their area.

The Gormanis, Legharis, Khosas, Gilanis, Qureshis and almost all the powerful landlords, Pirs and gaddi-nasheens remained in power but failed to mitigate the suffering of the Seraiki people. The deprived and poor people of southern Punjab do want development, jobs, schools, roads and basic infrastructure.

Besides, the districts of Muzaffargarh, Rajanpur and DG Khan faced devastation caused by floods during the tenure of this administration but the PPP government failed to help the masses in any way.

Some analysts believe that the present campaign is aimed at winning back the support of the disenchanted people of these flood-hit areas who had voted for the PPP in the 2008 general elections.

The princely state of Bahawalpur had become part of Pakistan on the assurance that its separate status would always be maintained.

Sensing very bad financial situation of a newly born state, the then ruler of Bahawalpur generously donated money and other valuables to Quaid-e-Azam in 1947 and help Pakistan to start its journey.

Even today, almost all the ethnicities reside in Bahawalpur in a peaceful manner and there has never been any lingual tussle. Following are some bullet-points explain the Bahawalpur issue.

In 1947, Bahawalpur’s accession to Pakistan agreement was signed by Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the then Ameer of Bahawalpur Nawab Sadiq Muhammad Khan Abbasi.

Bahawalpur thus became the first state which announced accession to Pakistan as a “federating unit” and this was clearly reflected in this agreement.

– On 29 April 1951 a supplementary accession agreement was signed by Nawab Sadiq and Khawaja Nazimuddin under which Bahawalpur was made province of Pakistan (federating unit) and under this agreement the 1952 polls were held in the province and a provincial government was set up.

– In the draft constitution of 1954, officially printed by the Printing Press of Pakistan, Bahawalpur had the status of a province.

– In 1955 one-unit was announced and Bahawalpur became part of West Pakistan. But even at that time an agreement was signed with Bahawalpur that it is being made part of West Pakistan as a federating unit.

– In 1970, under an LFO issued by military ruler Yahya Khan, one-unit was abolished and Bahawalpur was made a division of Punjab. Since that day the people of Bahawalpur are demanding that Bahawalpur’s status of a separate federating unit should be restored.

– In May 2011, members of Senate’s standing committee for Safron, including veteran politicians like Hasil Bazango from Balochistan, Prof Ibrahim from KPK, Abdul Ghafar Qureshi from Sindh, Hafiz Abdur Rasheed from FATA, Muhammad Ali Durrani and other senior members of the Upper House visited Bahawalpur and thoroughly examined all accession documents and agreements and unanimously held that pre-1955 status of Bahawalpur as a separate federating unit/province should be immediately restored.

The people of Bahawalpur don’t want to become part of another newly formed province in any case and if at any point of time someone attempts anything like this, there is no doubt that the people of Bahawalpur will resist such a move.

The constitutional requirement for creating the Seraiki province is also being ignored, as the PPP does not have the required numbers to do so. Clause 4 of Article 239 of the Constitution dealing with the subject of creating a new province reads: (4) A Bill to amend the Constitution which would have the effect of altering the limits of a Province shall not be presented to the President for assent unless it has been passed by the Provincial Assembly of that Province by the votes of not less than two-thirds of its total membership”.

The top government leaders are not telling the people how they will fulfill the requirement of this Article. Senator Muhammad Ali Durrani while commenting on President Zardari’s recent speeches in Multan said if President Zardari’s assertion for the Seraiki province is considered seriously then Seraiki is spoken up to Sukkhar in Sindh and Dera Murad Jamali in Balochistan. “Is the president talking of making these areas of Sindh and Balochistan part of the proposed Seraiki province?” he questioned.

By: Ahmad Noorani


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