Khurram Hussain

In late 2012 and early 2013, it was a race among political parties to raise the voice for a separate South Punjab province louder.

As Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) moved to parliament to establish a separate South Punjab province, Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) announced to create two provinces out of the Southern Punjab region and made it an important point of their election manifesto.

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) too was in chorus and promised to work for the creation of new provinces in the country.

But today, after almost four years of the present regime, nobody talks about new provinces. Especially about South Punjab province. The ruling PML-N appears sensitive about this issue and avoids it.

It seems like the people of Punjab will never get a separate province, at least in the near future.

Analysts believe that creation of a separate province in Punjab was just an election slogan which may be revived in the run-up to the next election but no practical effort to convert this notion into a reality has been observed.

“If a new province emerges from Punjab, it will take power away from Nawaz and Shahbaz who have become everything in the country by virtue of ruling this largest province,” says senior political analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi.

“I don’t see it happening very soon. They will try to avoid it at any cost,”.

Surprisingly, the voices being raised from South Punjab have also been silenced for a while now. Rizvi thinks there is no local voice strong enough for a separate province in South Punjab but groups with political affiliations with mainstream political parties.

“Seraiki nationalism is politically weak. It’s not such a big movement which can force the government to create a separate province,” said Rizvi adding that the rulers who can’t devolve municipal powers to the local government level how would they tolerate division in the provincial authority.

The main opposition party, PTI, which gives tough time to PML-N on all other issues is also silent on this matter.

“PTI doesn’t support South Punjab province because they themselves are being haunted by a separate province movement in Hazara. If they support South Punjab province, PML-N, which is much stronger in Hazara, will hit the PTI very hard over there,” he said.

“So the creation of new provinces is on nobody’s agenda. It has been reduced to mere election sloganeering.”

Creation of a new province demand a complete constitutional process and may take many months to complete. So, even if the government decides to take a step in this direction, we may not see this process getting completed in this tenure.

“They will have to constitute a committee to study that where a separate province is needed. What resources that region has and what problems will be solved by the creation of this new province. This committee will comprise of senior administrative and financial bureaucrats and leading politicians,” suggests Rizvi.

“This committee will submit its study report on the prospects of the new province. Then the province, out of which a new province needs to be created will pass a resolution in its favour from the assembly. Then the national parliament will approve legislation for the creation of this province,” Rizvi added.

Meanwhile, people from South Punjab continue to struggle for development.

“Until and unless we get our own province, the establishment of Punjab province will continue to spend our development funds in Lahore because their priority is only Lahore,” said Nazar Mohammad, a native of Muzaffargarh.

Khurram Hussain is Islamabad based journalist with interest in human angle stories. 

Editor’s Note: The views expressed in this article are solely of the writer.