BAHAWALPUR is famous around the world for its beauty, especially its desert, Cholistan. Bahawalpur was amongst the princely states of the subcontinent.  Being a princely state, it was to determine its status at the time of partition whether it wanted to accede to Pakistan or India. As it was a Muslim majority state and geographically linked with Pakistan, its then ruler Nawab Sadiq Khan-V rightly decided to join Pakistan and acceded his state to Pakistan on Ocy 7, 1947. The Quaid-i-Azam and the ruler of Bahawalpur state Nawab Sadiq-V signed on the document of accession. According to this document, the state has to retain its separate identity (independent status) under the federation of Pakistan.

However, it was merged into the province of West Pakistan on Oct 14, 1955 with the formation of One Unit. After the dissolution of One Unit, the state was incorporated in the Punjab province in violation of the provision of the accession agreement and against the wishes of the people of the region. At present Bahawalpur is a poor and backward area despite having a very rich history and culture. The public is not very educated and lacks awareness, though it has some prestigious educational institutions.

The literacy rate of women is very low. The rural area where most of the population lives lacks basic facilities of education, health and employment. The major population is associated with agriculture which is in a pathetic condition due to low agriculture output. The public sentiment here at Bahawalpur is that the leaders belonging to the upper Punjab are responsible for their misfortune.

Now, the movement for the restoration of Bahawalpur province (original status) is in full swing and local political personalities are engaged in this movement. The ruling PPP has shown solidarity with the people of Bahawalpur and other parties also are supporting this movement except the PML(N) which has its own reservation on the issue. One thing is very clear. The people of Bahawalpur want restoration of their separate province, and their voice for their right is irrevocable. However, there are some apprehensions about the role of the leadership of the region.

Can the people of Bahawalpur trust their local leadership? The politicians of Bahawalpur who claim to be the architects of this movement belong to different political parties who always won elections from their constituencies, but did very little for their people in the past.

N.A. ABBASI Bahawalpur



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