DesPardes + PKonweb

Southern Punjab on Front Burner; Mixing Bowl of CPEC

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government has announced the formation of South Punjab Secretariat –it will formally become operational on October 15, a meeting chaired by PM Khan on Friday decided.

Khan said the decision reflected his party PTI-led government’s will to implement its manifesto in letter and spirit, and regretted that governments in the past ignored the genuine issue of the people of South Punjab.

His party rules in the center and in Punjab (besides KP), which is Pakistan’s largest and the most populated province.

Devolution of power shall be phase-wise, Khan announced, while stressing on the need for Provincial Finance Commission Award to be allocated separately for South Punjab. “It would usher in a new era of progress and prosperity”, he said.

According to reports, the rules of business of Punjab government had been amended following the establishment of the Secretariat and 16 secretaries had been deputed in South Punjab.

Health, education, police, planning and development, local government, finance and agriculture had been transferred to South Punjab.

An effective structural organization has been put in place in the new secretariat equipped with technology, e-governance and paperless culture to facilitate the people, says a report.

The operationalization of a Secretariat could be a precursor to formation of South Punjab province –a new admin unit in the country. One government official sounded optimistic, telling DesPardes, “(It) goes without saying”. Another wasn’t optimistic, saying, “It’s a lollipop”.

A professional from southern Punjab however agreed the Secretariat may lead to a new admin. unit.

Another professional (from Multan) thinks the secretariat thing “is just an eye wash”, “without getting into politics”, he qualified. “Yes I do support (though) south Punjab as a separate admin unit,” he added.

Some are not sure. Others like the idea if all the I’s are dotted and T’s are slashed.

The previous government in Punjab led by PML-N had passed a bill in the provincial assembly supporting 2 or more admin. units in the province.

“Good step by the PTI-led government”, says an independent political observer, adding, “it’s a progressive approach…one step at a time”.

South Punjab would stand out as the mixing bowl of CPEC, they say.

The region comprising southern part of Punjab will have special significance once the humongous Pakistan China Economic Corridor (CPEC) takes off connecting Gwadar deep sea port in Balochistan to China, they add, “as CPEC meanders thru all the provinces with economic zones spurting out from it. “Southern Punjab could become the pivot along with eastern part of Balochistan”.

LISTEN TO WHAT SOME OTHER OBSERVERS SAY ABOUT SO. PUNJAB:

So once Balochistan tongues and grooves with other provinces via CPEC, the vast swathe from south to north of the country will become a confluence of resources available to be harnessed, these observers add. “That’s not in billions but north of couple of trillions”.