MULTAN-Though July 1st came and passed, it failed to cause the sort of ripples to remind the government of its promise regarding functioning of the proposed South Punjab sub-secretariat from the first day of the new fiscal year.

Like many other promises, another deadline has passed and another promise made by the government remained unfulfilled.

Despite public announcements made by the Prime Minister Imran Khan regarding making the proposed South Punjab sub secretariat functional from July 1, nothing exists on the ground. The only practical step taken by the government for the said secretariat is allocation of Rs3 billion in the Punjab budget for 2019-20.

Sources claimed that a tug-of-war among leaders of the ruling PTI and its political allies on the location of the secretariat rendered the government unable to fulfil its promise. Some wanted it in Multan, others in Lodhran, Bahawalpur or elsewhere.

Top officials in both the divisional and district administrations confided to this reporter that they were in the dark on this topic. “We know nothing as to where this secretariat will be set up and when will it become functional,” a top divisional official informed on condition of anonymity.

Initially, the district administration Multan had recommended to the provincial government two sites for South Punjab sub-secretariat. One was new complex on Mati Tal Road and the other a cotton research centre on Old Shujabad Road. Both the spots are owned by the provincial government.

“We put forward the proposal to the government few months back. Since then there is a complete silence and no further correspondence,” said an official of the district government.

The proposed secretariat will be led by an additional chief secretary. Sources in the Punjab government told this scribe that at least 18 departments including planning and development, irrigation, communication and works, health, energy, agriculture, education, finance, local government, housing and women development would function in the proposed sub secretariat. “Over 150 posts of the said 18 departments have been initially created and the number is likely to go up. The Special secretary of each department will have a team comprising at least two additional secretaries, four deputy secretaries, section officers and supporting staff,” sources added.

Sources disclosed that Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and the bureaucracy considered Multan the most feasible spot keeping in view of construction of new Multan-Lahore Motorway which cut down travel time between both the towns to mere three hour drive.

However, the leaders of PML-Q, an ally of Government both in Punjab and centre, who have been publicly opposing the creation of South Punjab province, do not want it to be set up in Multan. It is reported by national media that Q-League leader and Minister of Housing and Works Tariq Bashir Cheema wants the secretariat in Bahawalpur while PTI central leader Jahangir Khan Tareen in Lodhran.

Similarly, insiders from the ruling PTI disclosed that another PML-Q leader and chairman of the Executive Council on the Creation of the South Punjab province Tahir Bashir Cheema was also lobbying to bring the secretariat to Bahawalpur.

The residents of South Punjab waited anxiously for the July 1 deadline set by the government for the establishment of the sub secretariat. To their disappointment, however, the government even failed to decide secretariat’s location.

Leaders of Saraiki Parties smelled a rat in the delay. “It’s an evil conspiracy against South Punjab. The ruling elite is committing a new mischief by bringing Multan and Bahawalpur face to face,” alleged Zahoor Dhareja, a leader of Saraikistan Sooba Mahaaz.

Another Saraiki leader Arsalan Khan said that it was a test case for the rulers and they completely failed. “They got vote from this region on the promise that they will create province. Then they gave another lollypop to the people of South Punjab that they will set up the sub secretariat first,” he maintained. He claimed that the members of the ruling party intentionally created the fuss regarding location of the secretariat. “They are not sincere to fulfil their promise. That’s why they have created this pretext.”