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ISLAMABAD, Dec 20 (APP):Minister for Foreign Affairs Shah Mehmood Qureshi here on Thursday invited political parties in the Parliament to form a committee to develop consensus and look into advantages and disadvantages of creating a new province of South Punjab.

Speaking at a point of order on the floor of the National Assembly, he said the members in the assembly wanted to move forward on the issue of creation of South Punjab province. He said PTI had a clear stance on the issue of a new province and it was part of its manifesto. “We have made it part of our manifesto because it was an old issue and thinking of the people evolved on it and the reasons were backwardness in South Punjab.” As compared to other smaller provinces, Punjab was considered a prosperous province. However the reality was that economic indicators were better in north and central Punjab as compared to South Punjab, he observed.
The minister said people of South Punjab had been raising voice about their backwardness since the 1970s but no political party gave ownership to the issue of new province. Whenever consensus was being evolved on the issue, hurdles were put in its way, he said adding after the passage of the 18th amendment, a condition was created that a resolution should be passed in the respective provincial assembly and then National Assembly and Senate should pass a constitutional amendment with two thirds majority to create a province.
The minister said there was no hurdle in other three provinces about creation of province of South Punjab and consensus existed across the county. He said on some issues, there should be national consensus and a direction should be set, urging the parties to rise above their differences and see whether it was in the interest of Pakistan to create a province.
He was of the view that the creation of new province could strengthen the federation and remove backwardness of people. Qureshi said other countries in the region created new provinces for the sake of administrative efficiency and for better service delivery.
He suggested that political consensus should be developed as it was not an executive function to create province and the matter of a new province could be resolved through passage of constitutional amendment in the Senate and National Assembly.
He said South Punjab produced 85 percent of cotton, met food needs of the country and earned valuable foreign exchange. He recalled that PML-N last time tried to set up a Secretariat of South Punjab but it did not happen due to some reasons. PTI wanted to devolve powers and set up a secretariat so that people from Rahim Yar Khan, Bahawalpur and Multan have not to go all the way to Lahore to get their problems resolved, he added. The minister said PTI could exercise its executive authority but it desired that legislation should be carried out on the issue in the larger interest of the nation.
Expressing his views, MNA Sardar Nasrullah Dareshak endorsed the view that the new South Punjab province should be created and the issue should not be ignored as was done in the past.
MNA Sardar Akhtar Mengal said in the past areas belonging to Balochistan were given to Iran, Punjab and Sindh. He said politicians went through difficult times for opposing One Unit.