BAHAWALPUR: Reiterating his demand for the restoration of Bahawalpur province, Federal Minister for Housing and Works Tariq Bashir Cheema has proposed holding of a referendum to know people’s opinion on the issue of creation of a new federating unit in south Punjab.

The minister floated the proposal while addressing a public rally at Ahmedpur East on Sunday night.

Cheema, who is also PML-Q central secretary general, suggested the government should hold a referendum in three districts of Bahawalpur division on the issue.

He said those opposing the demand were in fact denying the historic and documented facts, adding that Bahawalpur had been a province where his late father Chaudhury Bashir Ahmed Cheema was the deputy speaker of its assembly, while late Makhdumzada Syed Hassan Mehmood was the chief minister.

He said the demand dated back to 1970 when during the martial law regime of Gen Yahya Khan, police had resorted to firing on a protest rally demanding the province’s restoration outside the Farid Gate here on April 24, killing two protesters.

He reminded the audience that Gen Yahya Khan through the Legal Framework Order (LFO) had dissolved the One-Unit and instead announced the restoration of Pakistan’s provinces. He said it also resulted in the creation of Balochistan province, which before the creation of One Unit did not have the status of a full-fledged province, regretting that the LFO ignored the demand for Bahawalpur province. This, he said, had sparked the agitation.

He deplored that local leaders of the agitators were sentenced by military courts for demanding a separate province.

Cheema paid tributes to former MNAs late Mian Nizamuddin Haider (Bahawalpur) and Makhdum Noor Muhammad Hashmi (Rahim Yar Khan), who had refused to sign 1973 Constitution, which had not the provision for Bahawalpur province.

Cheema said the people of Bahawalpur were not opposed to the demand for south Punjab province, which should be accepted but not at the cost of their demand.

The minister, however, clarified that the PML-Q being an ally of the ruling PTI was not against the plan for creation of south Punjab province.

He said he would remind Prime Minister Imran Khan of his statements supporting the cause of the people of Bahawalpur. He lauded Nawab Salahuddin Abbasi and PTI MNA Farooq Azam Malik for struggling for the restoration of Bahawalpur province, asking them to continue with the struggle.

Meanwhile, a former parliamentarian who is presently in the PTI, Syed Tabish Alwari, while welcomed the statements of Tariq Cheema, saying the province’s restoration was a “legal right” of the people of Bahawalpur.

Published in Dawn, December 25th, 2018