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LAHORE, June 18: The Pakistan People’s Party has offered its ‘full support’ to the Muslim League-Nawaz if the party goes ahead with creation of two new provinces in Punjab as it had earlier declared.

“We are ready to support the PML-N, both in the lower and upper houses, if it tables a bill for creation of two new provinces – Bahwalpur and South Punjab – according to its resolution which was unanimously adopted in the previous Punjab Assembly,” former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told Dawn on Tuesday.

Mr Gilani’s offer suggests the PPP is ready to withdraw its proposed Bahawalpur Janoobi Punjab province demand if the PML-N goes by the resolution. The PPP’s last government had formed a national parliamentary commission that had proposed BJP province. The Senate had passed a bill in this regard by two-thirds majority. Mr Gilani said the PPP had decided to support the PML-N for the sake of the people of south. “The PML-N had got the resolution to create two new provinces in Punjab passed unanimously to address the deprivation of the south. Now after coming to power the PML-N had no justification but to go ahead for their (provinces) creation,” the former premier said.

“There will be no hurdle in the way of the PML-N if it goes for creation of new provinces in Punjab in accordance with its resolution, as the PPP will fully support it in the National Assembly and Senate,” he said, adding the PPP had only one senator from the south but it got BJP bill passed with two-thirds majority, that showed its sincerity to the people of south.

“The PML-N had bagged votes in the south pledging new provinces there. If it does not fulfill its promise the Siraiki belt people will never forgive the party,” he said.

Mr Gilani expressed his surprise over no budget allocations for creation of new provinces. “People will soon realise who played politics in the name of new provinces in Punjab,” Gilani said.

The PML-N was forced to bring a resolution for creation of Bahawalpur and South Punjab provinces in the last Punjab Assembly when it was apprehending the PPP might capture Siraiki vote if it (N) opposed the idea of new province. When the PPP proposed BJP province, the PML-N vehemently opposed it saying it would have supported the idea of two provinces.

In the background interviews, some PML-N leaders admitted the party had never been for a new province and the slogan of two new provinces was only aimed at countering the PPP ‘move’.

The former premier was of the view that the people of the south would not sit calmly if the PML-N put the issue on the backburner.

Meanwhile, taking strong exception to Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s comments describing the move for Siraiki province as “Siraiki drama”, PPP Secretary-General Latif Khosa said the chief minister had insulted the people of south Punjab.

He said the chief minister wanted to keep the southern Punjab “under the yoke of Takht-i-Lahore”. The PML-N should implement the two Punjab Assembly resolutions passed for creation of two provinces in southern Punjab. “The PPP will press the government for acceptance of the longstanding demand of the people of the (south) region,” he said.

Khosa said his party was convinced that the political and economic deprivations of Siraiki belt people could be addressed by creating a new province.

He demanded that ‘Fort Munroe Development Authority’ be established on the pattern of the Muree Development Authority to develop a hill station in the south.