DERA GHAZI KHAN: Seraiki nationalists and intelligentsia welcomed the election of Usman Khan Buzdar as chief minister of Punjab in terms of benefits the region could reap from the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

They also hoped that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) succeeded in mustering support from its allies as well as opposition parliamentarians to gain the two-thirds majority in national and provincial assemblies required to establish a separate Seraiki or south Punjab province.

Seraiki nationalist, author of the banned Asaan Qaidi Takht Lahore De book, Ashiq Khan Buzdar of Mehray wala, Rajanpur told Dawn that Usman Buzdar had a deep understanding of problems of the Seraiki and tribal areas. Being a native, he understood local issues, including demand of a Seraiki province.

Ashiq claimed that Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi had been tasked with gathering the majority required in the assembly for establishment of a new province. A forward bloc would soon emerge within the PML-N and enable establishment of a Seraiki province, he claimed.

Mehmood Nizami of Pakistan Seraiki Party said Usman’s selection was based on the merit that he belonged to the backward tribal area of Tuman Buzdar where leprosy still prevailed and night blindness was common among women. He said the previous provincial assembly had already passed resolution to create two new provinces out of Punjab. He claimed the PPP would support the PTI in creation of south Punjab province and the PML-N also back the cause to dispel the anti-PML-N sentiments in the region.

Dr Naveed, general secretary of the PPP’s culture wing in the district, said Usman Buzdar was made chief minister to make his region significant to the CPEC projects. His tribe falls on both sides of the provincial boundary of Punjab and Balochistan, a factor that featured prominently in his selection for the top slot. Usman was also in the good books of international and national establishment, he claimed.

When a Balochi-Seraiki-speaking chief minister of Punjab would address a public meeting in Balochistan, it would create trust and confidence among the masses of the province as well as people of the Seraiki region.

Senior journalist and Seraiki nationalist Ashraf Khan Buzdar said the establishment of a Seraiki province would be a priority for the new chief minister and his party, but to achieve a two-thirds majority the PTI would have to muster support of the PPP and PML-N.

Vice chairman of the district council, Javed Iqbal Qaisrani, said they had a lot of expectations from Usman in terms of solution to problems faced by the locals. Responding to a query, he said that establishment of a Seraiki province was a tough task without winning two-thirds majority in both national and provincial assemblies, but he claimed with confidence that Taunsa Sharif would soon emerge as a district.

Talking to Dawn, Mushtaq Gadi of Seraiki Lok Sanjh said that creation of a new province in Punjab was imperative for state building. It would positively contribute to solving crucial structural problems. The main benefits included a balanced federation, economic growth, better governance and redressal of regional grievances.

The Seraiki belt has recently acquired new significance following changing geo-economic and geo-political situation in the wake of CPEC, and Usman Buzdar’s election as the chief minister fit perfectly in that scenario. Any denial or delay in according the region its rightful provincial status would merely complicate the problem, he maintained.

Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2018