PTI MPA threatens to fight tooth and nail: Discord over south Punjab secretariat composition

Updated 06 Jul 2020

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Foreign Minister Qureshi tries to allay apprehensions, says Multan won't be ignored in South Punjab's administrative arrangement. — Punjab govt handout/File
Foreign Minister Qureshi tries to allay apprehensions, says Multan won't be ignored in South Punjab's administrative arrangement. — Punjab govt handout/File

MULTAN: The composition of south Punjab civil secretariat – with Bahawalpur housing the main office and Multan and DG Khan camp offices – has drawn criticism even from the ruling party.

Elected parliamentarians of the PTI from the area are being berated on social media for the “surrender”.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi tried to allay apprehensions, saying Multan would not be ignored in the administrative arrangement of south Punjab and there will be a functional secretariat (in Multan) with additional chief secretary attending the office three days a week.

In a tweet on Sunday, Qureshi claimed the PTI had made a tangible progress in its manifesto commitments and “any concerns in this regard are baseless.”

Terming the establishment of the secretariat in Bahawalpur and two camp offices in Multan and Dera Ghazi Khan a conspiracy to sow seeds of hatred, senior politician Javed Hashmi said that instead of fulfilling the promise of a separate province the government had rather cheated the public.

“The Buzdar government is sowing the seeds of hatred as the area has been divided into three provinces. Complicating issues is the hallmark of the Imran Khan government,” he told media.

Parliamentary Secretary for Information and MPA Nadeem Qureshi rejected the statement of Additional Chief Secretary Zahid Akhtar Zaman regarding the establishment of secretariat in Bahawalpur. He said the chief minister and foreign minister had assured him that the secretariat would be established in Multan.

“The sons of Multan are alive who will fight the (case) of Multan. I will fight the case of my city. The parliamentarians of Multan would not remain silent (over the issue) and would not allow this injustice,” he said.

“I, being the member of the Punjab Assembly, suggest referendum to decide where the secretariat be established. Going for protest for a member of ruling party is not an easy task but no conspiracy against Multan will be accepted,” he concluded.

ACS Zahid Akhtar Zaman while talking to media here on Saturday had stated that the main secretariat will be established in Bahawlapur while camp offices will be established in Multan and Dera Ghazi Khan.

Meanwhile, Fazal-e-Rab of Seraiki Lok Saanjh said that the establishment of the secretariat was a step forward but a constitutional process should immediately be started for creation of a separate province in Punjab.

“The secretariat will not be effective without provincial finance accord. For this purpose, the Punjab government should immediately establish a provincial finance commission. All the staff of newly established secretariat should belong to Siraiki wasaib, keeping in view of regional autonomy and ending discrimination and disparity in terms of job opportunities to the people of area while a separate session of the elected representatives from the region should be held either in Multan or Bahawalpur in order to discuss the development priorities of and the challenges faced by the region,” he demanded.

Seraikistan Soba Mahaz rejected the government’s decision to establish a secretariat while saying the PTI’s promise was for a separate province not for a secretariat.

In a joint statement, the Mahaz leadership including Zahoor Dhareja, Khwaja Ghulam Farid Koreja, Khizar Hayat Diyal, Ashiq Buzdar and Akbar Khan Malkani stated the government should stop befooling people.

ACS: Zahid Akhtar Zaman says the government is working to transfer all the provincial powers to south Punjab and the secretariat in south Punjab is being established with all administrative powers.

Talking to media here, he said that at present the offices were not available for the secretariat that’s why the respective departments would arrange the place for offices of their respective secretaries, additional secretaries and deputy secretaries till the permanent arrangements were made.

He said the secretariat would be established in Bahawalpur for which the land had already been identified while the camp office would be established in Multan for which the land was being identified. Most probably it would be established on a piece of land owned by the state on Matti Tal Road; however, the final decision in this regard would be taken by the chief minister.

He said if any department lacked the space to accommodate the officers of secretariat, buildings on rent would be hired so that the functioning of the secretariat could take place soon. He said he had observed that the people wanted the establishment of secretariat in Multan.

“It is totally a political decision and I have nothing to do with it; however, I will convey the feelings of the people to the chief minister,” he said. He said he would spend three days in Bahawalpur and three in Multan while Dera Ghazi Khan would also not be ignored.

He said soon the rules of business and terms of references would be defined and the secretariat would start its proper functioning and all the government related matters of the area would be done over here.

Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2020