BAHAWALPUR: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has invited all political parties to a dialogue to reach a consensus on the issue of creation of new provinces in accordance with the demands of the people of Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.

He was speaking in Khairpur Daha near Uch Sharif, about 70km from here, at a ceremony marking the opening of the Uch Sharif-Jalalpur Peerwala road built by the National Highway Authority at a cost of Rs5 billion. The road will link areas in the districts of Bahawalpur, Multan and Muzaffargarh.

The prime minister criticised the setting up of the South Punjab Province Front and the leaders who announced its formation. He said that mere holding of press conferences could not create new provinces.

Mr Abbasi pointed out that no party could ensure the setting up of a new province all by itself because no party could amend the Constitution alone.

All the parties should strive to forge a consensus through dialogue, he said. The formation of new provinces might be in the best interest of the country.

In this connection, the prime minister referred to the demand for the creation of Hazara province as well as for other federating units in Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.

In this regard, he mentioned the adoption of two resolutions in the Punjab assembly in the last two years, about the restoration of Bahawalpur province and creation of South Punjab province.

It was the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, he said, that had ensured the passage of the two resolutions. The constitutional amendment, however, could not be passed through the efforts of just one party.

Mr Abbasi asked the leaders of the South Punjab Province Front to wait for the people’s verdict on the issue, as the general election was approaching fast. As they had parted ways with the PML-N, they should wait for proper mandate from the people.

He was of the view that people would vote for the PML-N and for its supreme leader Nawaz Sharif in the election.

The prime minister criticised the Supreme Court’s decision about Mr Sharif’s disqualification for life and maintained that such verdicts could not be viewed with respect because they hurt democracy.

He said that Mr Sharif was jailed and punished during the rule of retired Gen Pervez Musharraf but the PML-N leader survived against great odds “while the military dictator and his judges are no longer around”.

He reiterated his stance that political issues should not be decided in courts; rather they should be decided on the basis of votes.

The politics of truth would prevail and the politics based on lies and abuses would be defeated, said the prime minister.

He was of the opinion that the previous governments led by Gen Musharraf and Asif Ali Zardari could not match the development works carried out by the present government. In this regard he specifically mentioned the works carried out by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.

Even now, he said, when only a couple of months remained before the election the PML-N government was continuing to work for the benefit of the masses. He would be inaugurating two development projects every week, unlike those leaders who had predicted the present government’s demise time and again.

Mr Abbasi said a road network of 1,700km would change the country’s fate. The PML-N had completed several notable projects, including the Lowari tunnel, Kachhi canal and Neelum-Jhelum hydropower project, which were pending since decades.

Several major projects had also been completed in south Punjab, he said.

Responding to a demand for up-gradation of the Ahmedpur East tehsil to the status of district headquarters, Mr Abbasi said he would talk to former prime minister Nawaz and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz on the issue.

At the local circuit house, the prime minister met delegations comprising PML-N leaders, workers and supporters. He also met lawyers, traders and businessmen.

Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2018

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