LAHORE - PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi has called for holding of referendum in South Punjab to know the will of the people about creation of a new province.

Addressing a news conference alongwith the PML-N dissidents from South Punjab , the PTI leader also supported their demand for a new province to end the sense of deprivation of the people there.

A seasoned politician from Multan, Shah Mahmood was confident that an overwhelmingly majority of people in that region would vote for making a new province if the government holds referendum to know their wishes.

He rejected as rubbish a statement by Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah that only a few people were making such a demand. “I challenge the PML-N leadership to hold a referendum there and see the results”, he said.

Qureshi, however, said the new province should not be made on the linguistic basis. It should rather be carved out purely for administrative reasons as it had become highly difficult to govern a province with a huge population of over 100 million people, he said.

Giving the rationale for a new province, the PTI leader also mentioned the sense of deprivation prevailing among the people in South Punjab due to their alleged backwardness in all spheres of life.

He said that South Punjab was lagging behind despite the fact that it produced 85 per cent of country’s cotton and 69 per cent of country’s exports also came from this crop.

“The region comprising three divisions of Multan, Bahawalpur and DG Khan has got 44 National Assembly seats and the people of the area deserved to be given their identity and rights by creating a new province”, he observed. 

He also said that a regional quota of jobs for South Punjab region should have been fixed on the pattern of Sindh where a distinction is made between the rural and urban areas for distribution of vacant posts.

An urban and rural quota of jobs was fixed by Z.A Bhutto in Sindh to protect the right of people living in the rural areas, he added.

He also asked Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif to make public the report of a Committee headed by Punjab Governor Rafique Rajwana which had made recommendations on how to address the problems of South Punjab .

“Where is the mini-Secretariat, the Chief Minister had pledged to establish in South Punjab ? he questioned.

Qureshi said that the Chief Minister would often make tall claims of allocating extra funds for the region more than its population after every budget.

“But there is difference between the allocation and the disbursements. Funds are allocated but they not actually spent there”, he maintained, adding, that being a former Punjab Finance Minister he knew how the public sector development programme was sabotaged.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi further stated that the entire PML-N leadership from Multan had asked Shehbaz Sharif that they needed clean drinking water, better sewerage system and health and education facilities, but he gave them a metro bus. Pleading the division of Punjab, he said that: “Punjab province is so huge that it can dictate its terms even if all the smaller provinces raise their collective voice on a certain issue.”

Replying to a question, he said: “I think PTI would be the right platform for these leaders.”

He also condemned a firing incident at the residence of Justice Ejazul Ahsan.

“I want to tell the forces involved in the incident that PTI is standing with the judiciary. Present judiciary has delivered historic verdicts including the one on Panama papers”, he said.

Speaking the occasion, leader of PML-N lawmakers from south Punjab, Khusro Bakhtiar said that there was still time for political parties to make Janoobi Punjab province as they had earlier supported all the resolutions demanding a new province for the southern belt of Punjab.  

He stated that their alliance was non-political in nature.

“We don’t believe in regionalism. Our alliance will end the moment a new province is created. We would rather like to support the mainstream political parties because regional politics was harmful for the Federation”, he said.