PPP tables south Punjab province bill in Senate

Published May 4, 2019
Farhatullah Babar says PTI has failed to fulfil its promise on the issue. — Dawn Newspaper/File
Farhatullah Babar says PTI has failed to fulfil its promise on the issue. — Dawn Newspaper/File

ISLAMABAD: Former senator Farhat­ullah Babar said on Friday that the Pakis­tan Peoples Party (PPP) had tabled in the Senate a constitution amendment bill to create south Punjab province along the lines of a bill that was passed by the upper house of parliament in 2013. The new pro­vince will comprise Multan, Bahawalpur and Dera Ghazi Khan divisions and districts of Mianwali and Bhakkar.

Talking to Dawn, Mr Babar said the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) had promised to create the new province in its first 100 days in office. “The PPP waited for eight months for the promise to be fulfilled, but seeing that the government has not taken a single step the PPP decided to table its own bill with the support of other parties in the Senate,” he added.

The PPP leader said his party had even offered to the government to adopt the already passed bill as its own, but neither the offer was accepted nor had the government brought in its own bill. He recalled that the multi-party parliamentary commission set up in 2012 had also prepared a comprehensive report on the basis of thousands of communications on the subject and public hearings held on the issue.

Farhatullah Babar says PTI has failed to fulfil its promise on the issue

“The PTI won 30 out of 50 parliamentary seats from the Seraiki belt on the promise of making it a separate province,” he said and asked why the government was dragging its feet on the issue.

‘Onslaught’ against media

Meanwhile, opposition members in the Senate criticised the government for what they called its onslaught against the media and held it responsible for the sufferings of media workers. They said the media workers were facing retrenchments, massive pay cuts and delayed payment of salaries due to a massive cut in advertisements to media houses by the government.

Former Senate chairman and Pakistan Peoples Party leader Mian Raza Rabbani said any media censorship amounted to violation of the Constitution as it recognised press freedom as a fundamental right. He lauded the services of the media for democracy and regretted that the present government had adopted a new method of censorship by using advertisements as a tool to pressurise the media.

Senator retired Gen Abdul Qayyum said the media had an important role to play in this era of information revolution. He said media workers were currently facing three kinds of problems — retrenchments, massive pay cuts and delayed payment of salaries. Certain media houses had not paid salaries to their workers for months, he added.

Senator Javed Abbasi said the media gave wide coverage to the PTI’s sit-in against the previous PML-N government in 2014, but the party after coming to power made the media its first victim. He said that even if the government had some score to settle with the owners of some media houses, it should solve the problems being faced by media workers.

Senators from both side of the aisle reaffirmed their strong commitment to the freedom of press and expression, saying it is an article of faith for every democracy.

In a unanimously adopted resolution on the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day, they said access to transparent and reliable information was the cornerstone for building fair and impartial institutions, holding leaders accountable and speaking truth to power.

Rules were suspended to allow Leader of the House Syed Shibli Faraz to move the resolution jointly drafted by the government and opposition. The house recognised the press freedom as a fundamental human right and paid tribute to journalists, editors and publishers who risk their lives in defence of the public’s right to know.

Before the resolution was moved, Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani in his brief remarks asked the government to initiate a reconciliation process between the media houses and workers so that payment of workers’ dues and protection of their services could be ensured.

Published in Dawn, May 4th, 2019

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