ISLAMABAD: The merger of the Junoobi Punjab Suba Mahaz (JPSM) with the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) became controversial shortly after its official announcement on Wednesday when a senior JPSM leader declined to accept it as a merger and asserted that it was an alliance.
However, PTI spokesman Fawad Chaudhry insisted that it was a merger. He said: “It is definitely a merger as under the agreement signed by the two sides, the JPSM has agreed to work under the PTI flag.
“Before the merger we categorically told JPSM leaders that the PTI will give tickets to its own candidates against those who will not contest the polls under the PTI flag.”
Confusion persists over ‘merger’ or ‘alliance’ between two parties
The PTI also released a list carrying the names of 20 JPSM leaders, including five members of National Assembly and 13 members of the Punjab Assembly, and claimed that they had agreed to join the PTI.
However, JPSM leader Tahir Bashir Cheema told Dawn that it was not a merger between the PTI and JPSM but an alliance. He said two leaders of the JPSM — a group comprising more than a dozen lawmakers who recently quit the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz — were out of the country at the time of joint press conference by PTI chairman Imran Khan and JPSM president Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar.
The merger is said to have taken place on the basis of a demand for a separate province comprising cities and areas of southern Punjab though the development is quite significant with general elections just around the corner.
While addressing the joint conference, PTI chief Imran Khan and JPSM president Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar had announced the merger between the two sides. Mr Khan categorically said his party would not make alliance with any other party except Maulana Samil Haq’s Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI).
Earlier the two parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) stating that they agreed the creation of a new province in Punjab was inevitable for socio-economic development and fair distribution of resources in southern Punjab.
It said the PTI acknowledged the services and efforts of all JPSM members for making a separate province. Both sides also pledged that they would work under the PTI umbrella to give due rights to the people of southern Punjab.
The MoU said both sides vowed that they would make efforts to implement the plan regarding the new province within 100 days for which a committee would be formed with JPSM president Khusro Bakhtiar and chairman Mir Balkh Sher Mazari as its members.
The two sides also pledged that the new province would eliminate poverty and joblessness in southern parts of Punjab and ensure prompt provision of basic infrastructure, justice, as well as education and healthcare facilities.
Mr Khan told the press conference that the merger was not just a “political move” but also an effort to make people from across the country one nation.
He said the less developed areas of the country could not be brought on a par with developed cities unless a proper local government system was put in place in the whole country. “Under the 18th Constitution Amendment, powers had been devolved to the provinces but they were not further transferred to the gross roots level,” he said. The Punjab government spent 60 per cent of the entire provincial budget only in Lahore, neglecting other parts of the province, the PTI chief said. “Power is centred in Lahore while there is a growing sense of deprivation in south Punjab areas. Lahore is my own city and I should be happy if my city gets more funds but this will be unfair to the rest of the country,” he maintained.
Mr Khan welcomed the over one dozen elected representatives of southern Punjab in his party and said: “I welcome Khusro Bakhtiar and especially Mir Balakh Sher Mazari, who is a respected Pakistani politician.”
Fata merger with KP
About the proposed merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Mr Khan said it was equally important for his party as infrastructure of tribal areas had been destroyed due to the ongoing fight against militancy over the past 15 years. “Ninety per cent tribal areas people demanded Fata’s merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” he added.
He agreed that the creation of a new province was not an easy task, but both parties were committed to making it possible within 100 days. “The federation is strengthened when its units are happy and this is what makes a nation strong and powerful,” he added.
Asghar Khan case
Asked about the role of ‘aliens’ in general elections as stated by the ousted prime minister in his recent speech, Mr Khan said: “The reopening of the Asghar Khan case will determine who are the aliens.”
He expressed the hope that elections would be held on time. “Our preparation for elections is already completed and we hope the polls will be held on July 25,” he said.
Responding to the question about picking eligible and honest candidates of PTI in the upcoming elections, Mr Khan said he would himself oversee the process of awarding tickets for the elections.
JPSM President Khusro Bakhtiar said Mr Khan was their last hope to build a ‘new Pakistan’. “Our merger is based on the single point that southern Punjab province will be established by the PTI if it comes to the power,” he added.
He said his party would take forward with the PTI the case of 34 million people of southern Punjab for a new province.
List of JPSM leaders
According to the list released by the PTI, 20 JPSM leaders who joined the PTI are: MNAs Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar, Tahir Bashir Cheema, Tahir Iqbal Chaudhry, Rana Mohammad Qasim Noon, Makhdoomzada Basit Bokhari and MPAs Sardar Nasrullah Khan Drishak, Samiullah Chaudhry, Asghar Ali Shah, Makhdoom Syed Iftikhar Hassan Gilani, Mian AlamdarAbbas Quraishi, Muhamad Zeeshan Gurmani, Ghulam Murtaza Raheem Khar, Sardar Khan Muhammad Jatoi, Muhammad Jamil Shah, Karam Dad Wahla, Sardar Qaisar Abbas Magsi, Sardar Muhammad Khan Leghari, Sardar Fateh Muhammad Khan Buzdar and Chaudhry M. Alam Gujjar.
Interestingly, all the five MNAs and the 13 MPAs have given their resignation to respective speakers of the National Assembly and Punjab Assembly. But the lawmakers have yet to appear before NA Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq for confirmation of their resignation.
PTI spokesman Fawad Chaudhry said two of the 20 leaders were not present on the occasion of their merger. JPSM leader Tahir Bashir Cheema told Dawn that the two leaders were out of the country therefore they could not turn up at the ceremony. However, he called it an alliance of the two parties.
The PTI spokesman said it was definitely a merger as under the agreement signed by the two sides, the JPSM had agreed to work under the flag of the PTI. “Before the merger we have categorically asked JPSM leaders that PTI will give tickets to its own candidates against those who will not contest the polls under the PTI flag,” he said.
Published in Dawn, May 10th, 2018