Seraiki nationalists and intelligentsia welcomed the election of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf's (PTI) Usman Buzdar as Punjab chief minister on Sunday, saying that it boded well for the future of development under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as well as the creation of a new Seraiki/South Punjab province.
Seraiki nationalist Ashiq Buzdar of Rajanpur's Mehraywala, while talking to Dawn, said Usman Buzdar had a deep understanding of the problems native to Seraiki-speaking and tribal areas.
"He is a native and understands the importance of issues, including the demand for a Seraiki province," Ashiq said.
He claimed that newly-elected Punjab Assembly speaker, Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, had been given a mandate to form a forward bloc in the PML-N and lobby for the establishment of a new province, and that he had also been tasked with the responsibility of acquiring a two-thirds majority in the Punjab Assembly (which is mandatory to establish a new province) by those who supported his election for this purpose.
He explained that the emergence of a forward bloc within the PML-N would help towards making a Seraiki province a reality during Buzdar's tenure.
Pakistan Seraiki Party's Mehmood Nizami recalled that the previous Punjab Assembly had already passed a resolution to create two new provinces out of Punjab.
He predicted that the PPP would extend its support to the PTI for creation of a new province, while the PML-N would support the cause to appease south Punjab and woo it away from its "anti PML-N attitude".
PPP's Dera Ghazi Khan Cultural Wing General Secretary Dr Naveed said that the election of Buzdar as CM would be beneficial to development taking place under CPEC, since the Buzdar tribe has ties to both Punjab and Balochistan.
Dr Naveed was of the opinion that a Balochi and Seraiki-speaking Punjab CM would be able to address public meetings in Balochistan and create trust and confidence among the people of Balochistan as well as the Seraiki people.
Senior journalist and Seraiki nationalist Ashraf Khan Buzdar said that the establishment of a Seraiki province should be a priority of the chief minister and his party, but noted that to achieve a two-thirds majority, the PTI would have to muster the support of the PPP and PML-N, otherwise it would be impossible to establish a new province.
District Council Vice Chairman Javed Iqbal Qaisrani said that people of the area supported Buzdar and had high expectations from him regarding the settlement of problems of the area.
Responding to a query, Qaisrani said that the establishment of a Seraiki province was a difficult task without a two-thirds majority in the national and relevant provincial assembly, but he claimed with confidence that Taunsa Sharif tehsil would soon emerge as a district.
Mushtaq Gadi of Seraiki Lok Sanjh said that the creation of a new province in Punjab is an imperative of state-building in Pakistan, and would positively contribute to solving some crucial structural problems.
The main benefits, he said, included a balanced federation, economic growth, better governance and redressal of regional deprivation. The Seraiki belt has recently acquired new significance in terms of the changing geo-economic and geo-political situation in the wake of CPEC and Usman Buzdar's election as Punjab CM.
He maintained that any further denial or delay in according it a provincial status would merely complicate the problem.