Imran promises new province as PML-N South Punjab defectors join PTI

MNA Khusro Bakhtiar, who heads a group of national and provincial lawmakers, holds press conference alongside PTI chief Imran Khan

Web Desk

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) lawmakers from South Punjab, who recently parted ways with the ruling party, joined the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on Wednesday.

The announcement came as MNA Khusro Bakhtiar, who heads a group of national and provincial lawmakers, held a press conference alongside PTI chief Imran Khan.

Upon joining PTI, Bakhtiar said Imran Khan promised to deliver a separate South Punjab province which was the demand of his group Junoobi Punjab Suba Mahaaz.

"On April 29, under the shadow of Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore, Imran Khan promised to make a separate South Punjab province," he stated.

Speaking on the occasion, the PTI chief said, "I am fairly new to politics but you would remember that a lot of parties before me promised a South Punjab province and did not deliver."

"I believe that it is very difficult to administer big units," he said explaining why he supports a separate province for South Punjab.

The PTI chief continued, "A separate province is not enough and we will form a committee to solve South Punjab's issues."

"I have been to Switzerland and people are the happiest there because they have 25 cantons for a population which is less than Lahore. Each canton makes their own decisions after hearing the demands of their people," Imran said while asserting that administering large provinces is difficult.

Taking a hit at the PML-N, Imran said, "Parties have been making promises for years but never fulfilling them. Some came to power thrice and still say if they get one more chance they will make a Naya Pakistan."

The PTI chief said people from cities across Punjab are moving and doing business in Lahore because the leadership only focuses its funds towards that city. "Government only invests in Lahore and, that too, very close to Raiwind."

"Other cities are suffering because of focus of investment in Lahore and there is a sense of deprivation in South Punjab," he said further.

Stating that making a province is not easy, Imran highlighted the need for a separate province for South Punjab and the merger of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).

"We will also expedite FATA's merger into KP," he said. "FATA's governance system was destroyed due to the war on terror.

"They did not want to become a part of KP earlier but they faced a lot of difficulties and became 'non-people' due to the war and now, 90 percent of them demand merger with KP," the PTI chief added. 

Imran also stressed the need for a local government system.

"Local government system is very important otherwise people will not get governance," he added.

The PTI chief continued, "Only the local government knows the problems of the locals."

"If there is no local government system the corruption happens as nexuses are formed."

Imran also said, "A genuinely empowered local government system is the answer for the people of Pakistan."

"There is a mess in Karachi because the local government there is not empowered," he added. 

Responding to a question regarding 'aliens' that former premier Nawaz Sharif speaks of, Imran said, "Just look at the Asghar Khan case."

"Look at the case and you will find out how poor Mian Sb received Rs35 lakhs."

He added, "The case will also show you who the favourite is."

The PTI chief further said, "We have no plans of joining hands with any political party."

"Will only have an alliance with Maulana Samiul Haq in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa," he added.

South Punjab province part of Imran's 11-point agenda: Bakhtiar

Addressing the press conference, Bakhtiar said, "We presented our case for a separate province on April 9 and Imran Khan while presenting his 11-point agenda mentioned in his eighth point that South Punjab will be made into a separate province." 

Lamenting that the PML-N did not listen to their demands for a separate province, Bakhtiar asked, "Then who should we have gone to?"

"PPP also raised the slogan for a separate South Punjab province but failed to fulfil its promise," he said.

The former PML-N lawmaker continued, "Imran Khan and I have decided to join hands."

Bakhtiar further said that South Punjab has been home to his family for nearly 800 years. "We have faced a lot of injustices," he said.

When was South Punjab province demanded in last five years: PML-N leader

Responding to the press conference, PML-N leader Maiza Hameed questioned, "When did they demand a separate province for South Punjab in the last five years."

Speaking to Geo News, she asked, "Did anyone see these people on TV or holding press conferences to demand a south province earlier."

"They were with PNML-N when they wanted funds for their areas," Hameed said.

The PML-N leader who hails from Rahim Yar Khan continued, "They should have held talks within the party if they had issues."

Hameed further took a hit at the defectors saying, "These are the kind of people who switch parties because they realise due to their own corruption and acts they are losing ground and their chances of winning are slim."

She also asked, "Why wasn’t any question raised regarding the lack of resource allocation to South Punjab in the last five years."

"As per my knowledge, most resources have been allocated to South Punjab," the PML-N leader added.

"Universities, hospitals and roads were made in South Punjab," she said.

The lawmakers from South Punjab parted ways with the ruling party last month and announced the launch of a mass movement — Junoobi Punjab Suba Mahaaz — to make southern Punjab a separate province.

The PTI had responded favourably to the call with Imran also calling for a separate province.

A PTI delegation led by its senior leader from the region, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, had been holding consultations with the lawmakers to devise a joint strategy for the upcoming elections.

The moves had also led to a reaction from the ruling party, with the prime minister and Punjab chief minister also lending support to the region by announcing development initiatives and highlighting the government’s welfare projects there.