Multan   -  Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said yesterday that separate budget would be allocated for south Punjab in next financial year while the sub-civil secretariat for south Punjab was also likely to start functioning from July 1.

Addressing a news conference here, he revealed that with amendment in Article 106 the south Punjab’s provincial assembly would have 120 seats out of which 95 representatives would be elected through direct election while 22 indirect and three members would be elected against minority seats. He further explained that the number of provincial seats for the upper Punjab would decrease to 251 while a separate high court for south Punjab would also be set up through amendment in Article 198. “This high court will have its own chief justice and Multan will be its principal seat while Bahawalpur bench will be under south Punjab high court,” he further revealed.

Qureshi said the PTI government had proposed amendments in Articles 1, 51, 59, 106, 198 and 218 of the Constitution and after these amendments south Punjab province would become a reality. “With amendment in clause 2 of Article 1 the word south Punjab will be added to the Constitution. This amendment also contains the explanation of south Punjab and what areas it is consisted of,” he further explained. The foreign minister added that the proposed province would be comprising Multan, Bahawalpur and Dera Ghazi Khan divisions and a separate provincial assembly would take birth through amendment in Article 51 while the amendment in Article 59 would increase the number of provinces to five from four. He said that the amendment also set the procedure for south Punjab’s representation in Senate and increase in Senate seats.

He pointed out that two-thirds majority was needed to create south Punjab province and PPP had given positive response. “We’ll contact other parliamentary parties including PML-N,” he added. He said the PTI was heading towards fulfilment of the promise that it made in 2018 election. Qureshi noted that PTI Chairman Imran Khan had made promise to create south Punjab province in party’s manifesto in 2018 and the PTI tabled a bill in the assembly two days ago for fulfilment of this promise. He said the bill was approved with majority and now the speaker would send it to the parliamentary committee. He claimed that PML-N’s Shahid Khaqan Abbasi wrongly dubbed the PTI’s bill unlawful, saying the speaker sent this bill to committee which proved that it was legal. He said that PML-N bill was also with the committee and whatever decision the committee would make would be sent to the parliament. He hoped that the sub-secretariat would start functioning from July 1 and the place for the secretariat would be announced soon. The PTI’s senior leader said that PPP’s Syed Khurshid Shah expressed positive stance on the province and they would talk to the PML-N as well. “I think many PML-N members are in favour of south Punjab province. Thus the PML-N should review its decision, support PTI’s amendment bill and let the province be created,” he demanded.

He declared Bahawalpur province illogical, saying how on earth a province could be established on just three districts. “And that province had seats in the assembly and Senate. It’s quite illogical,” he maintained. He said that the creation of province needed two-thirds majority and the PTI would continue its efforts for evolving consensus. He said the PPP could not create south Punjab province due to absence of two-thirds majority in the past and now it should support PTI for this purpose. “Tariq Bashir Cheema is our friend and we’ll take the leadership of Q-League into confidence on creation of a united province,” he declared.

To a query, he said that entire nation had a consensus on National Action Plan and all of them wanted an end to terrorism from the country. He said operations Raddul Fasad and Zarb-e-Azb were launched to uproot terrorism and Pak Army and masses rendered tremendous sacrifices for achieving this goal.

Answering another question, he claimed that all out efforts would be made to offer maximum relief to a common man in coming budget. He added that less burden would be put on the poor class if the government needed to increase electricity and gas prices. He said the government wanted to strengthen economy and present budget in light of its own resources. He said that the tax amnesty scheme was meant to whiten the black money and the government had given last chance to the people possessing black money to make it white by paying their tax. He said that the people who possessed foreign assets could disclose them now, adding that those converting their black money white would be given relief. “However, people like Nawaz Sharif and Zardari, who remained in government and made black money, will not be given any relief,” he declared.

When asked about withdrawal of Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s security, he dispelled the impression and said that the security was not withdrawn rather it was rationalised. He said Maulana’s workers’ picking arms was wrong as the state was responsible for providing protection to all its citizens and it was discharging this responsibility.

He said the government had done complete investigation about Pakistanis being extradited from the USA and they would be accepted.

Qureshi said Pak-Iran gas pipeline project was their desire and Iran wanted to supply gas to Pakistan but international sanctions on Iran were a big hurdle in the way of this project. To a question, he said that many powers were against CPEC and they could not digest it but the government had the capacity to face all kinds of pressures.