Editorial : Seraiki province - Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2011/03/16/seraiki-province.html

PRIME Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has been frequently confronted with calls for the creation of a Seraiki province during his visits to his hometown Multan and its surroundings. Until the spring of 2011 heralded a crop of new possibilities, Mr Gilani had been sidestepping the question declaring that it was not the right moment, even while conceding that the people were fully within their rights to make such a demand. His recent declaration that a separate province carved out of Punjab would be part of the PPP’s manifesto in the next general election means that the party’s leaders find the appropriate time to be now. In this context, the ‘why now’ question is not too difficult to answer considering that the PPP has just been thrown out of the Punjab government and that opposition parties today are behaving as parties generally do before the start of an earnest push for mid-term polls against a struggling government.
However, as it seeks to limit the PML-N to certain parts of Punjab through the creation of new geographical boundaries the risks of the PPP exposing itself to similar demands by people in other provinces are grave. Moreover, the call for a Seraiki province will draw angry reactions, not least from among the Punjabi speakers living in areas on the PPP’s Seraiki map. Just how angry the response can be is reflected in the advice of a language activist in Lahore that Mr Gilani look for a Seraiki province outside Punjab. “Punjab belongs to the Punjabis,” the statement says, while another response from a former minister, asserting Bahawalpur as a separate entity inside the Pakistani state, focuses on the divide within the ‘Seraiki’ areas. Such divisions have become deeper as references to a Seraiki province have multiplied, but with a major party now having pledged support for the idea, there is no shying away from the debate that has at its core issues relating to cultural and political identity, exploitation and power. Big and small provinces and their ethnic makeup notwithstanding, ultimately the people must be empowered at the local level, at the grass-roots.

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