DERA GHAZI KHAN: Seraiki nationalists and intelligentsia have called the resolution on the province of south Punjab by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) incomplete and lacking cultural, lingual and actual geographical considerations, and vowed to continue their struggle through a peaceful cultural mode until the achievement of a complete Seraiki province.

Seraiki nationalists demand a province consisting of 23 Seraiki-speaking districts. The recent resolution by the PTI seeks creation of a south Punjab province consisting of 11 districts of Dera Ghazi Khan, Multan and Bahawalpur divisions.

Seraiki poet-cum-nationalist Ashiq Buzdar told Dawn that Bhakkar, Mianwali, Jhang and Noorpur Thal should be part of Seraiki province. He added that the name ‘south Punjab’ was not acceptable as it was a negation of cultural, lingual and geographical identity of the Seraiki wasaib.

Talking to Dawn, Pakistan Seraiki Party Chairperson Dr Nukhbah Taj Langah said the bill presented by the PTI was short of historical boundaries. She said the geographical area for the province, demanded by Seraiki activists, consists of 23 districts of Bahawalpur, Multan and Dera Ghazi Khan divisions, and some districts from Sargodha division, Sahiwal division and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Dera Ismail Khan and Tank were dominantly made part of the present KP by colonial rulers in 1901, whereas the majority of people in these areas speak Seraiki and identify as themselves as Seraiki. The area proposed by the PTI government sadly disregards these historical facts and excludes the areas of Sargodha, Jhang, Bhakkar and Mianwali.

She said the government should consider people’s struggle for identity in the Seraiki area. Their struggle was based on their socio-economic cultural and political marginalisation by the ruling elite of Punjab. If a government does not consider this representation based on their historical case, a semi-Seraiki province will not fulfil their needs for economic betterment and political representation.

The water crisis in Seraiki wasaib will worsen as the two main districts of Mianwali and Jhang, which have the main water resources, are overwhelmingly Seraiki, but have not been included in the proposed province. Moreover, if these facts are not considered, the job crisis, economic deprivations and underdevelopment in this area will never be resolved. Hence, the PTI should seek people’s opinion regarding the inclusion of districts in the proposed province.

Pakistan Awami Seraiki Party leader Akbar Malkani said his party did not accept the creation of south Punjab province as it was against the actual demand of the Seraiki province.

Since the 1960s, the people in south Punjab who speak a different language and practice different cultural values from the rest of Punjab have been in a struggle to re-discover their historical identity through cultural and literary movements.

They have kept their identity alive despite attacks by invaders, colonial rulers and Sikhs. Now, Seraiki is the part of parliamentary resolutions and has obtained a separate column in the national census. Also, Seraiki language is being taught at the college level, which is a result of decades-long cultural-cum-literary movement and work of Seraiki nationalist political parties.

Mushtaq Gadi of Seraiki Lok Sanjh said the Seraikis should welcome the parliamentary initiative to create a new province out of Punjab. Parliament is the only legitimate democratic forum to build constitutional and political consensus on such a vital issue. There were presently three constitutional bills submitted by three political parties to parliament. It is only the bill of the PPP, which is close to people’s aspirations and covers maximum linguistic geography of Seraiki wasaib. Seraikis should support it.

He said the PML-N was playing the role of a spoiler and playing the colonial strategy of divide and rule. The Seraikis should recognise its role and oppose its colonial designs at all levels.

Seraiki nationalist Mahmood Nizami said parliament should consider the aspirations of Seraiki masses regarding establishment of a Seraiki province.

Seraiki National Council leader Zahoor Ahmed Dhareeja said both resolutions -- south Punjab and two provinces -- were a conspiracy against the establishment of Seraikistan province, while the PTI was indulging in point-scoring on the issue.

Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2019