Adul Mujeeb Zahid and Muhammad Irtaza

MUZAFFARGARH/Multan – Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Sunday rejected a proposal from Nawaz Sharif of creating new administrative units in the country, saying that Seraiki people won’t accept anything less than an independent province of their own.

Addressing at the inauguration ceremony of the newly-constructed Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Basti in tehsil Kot Addu, Gilani said those hoping for the downfall of his government will be disappointed as People’s Party did not come into power with anyone’s help and nor will it pack up on anyone’s demand.

The PPP was the name of a movement having a rich history of sacrifices and the people affiliated with it will never sell-out nor surrender, he added.

Prime Minister Gilani saluted the Pakistani nation for its resilience‚ courage and help in the rehabilitation of flood affectees. He said he felt immense happiness at this occasion because this area had been devastated by the floods and now once again people were being rehabilitated.

The prime minister distributed the keys and allotment letters of 143 houses among the deserving women affected by the floods. The new village has been provided electricity‚ water and sewerage systems‚ school‚ mosque‚ market‚ dispensary and playground. It is a part of a programme to build a total of 35,000 houses for the flood affectees in the country.

Gilani stated that flood was a big disaster and it was an honour for him to give new homes to the flood victims. The prime minister also gave orders to issue a grant of 10 million rupees to the Muzaffargarh Press Club.

Gilani said that People’s Party’s workers were ideological. “We feel proud on having such courageous workers.” He said these were the workers of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Shaheed Benazir Bhutto who laid down their lives for the rights of the people. They sought to make history but others who were self-centred were eliminated with the passage of time.

Coming to the Seraiki province issue, the prime minister said separate province was the demand of the people of the southern Punjab, which lacks progress and there is a sense of deprivation. He said the Seraiki people do not want an administrative unit and giving them their own province was of highest priority.

Gilani said Nawaz Sharif had recently given a statement in which he proposed new administrative units in the country, “but we reject this offer.” Saraiki people are sober, kind-hearted and have a sweet language but it does not mean they do not know what they want, he said, adding, “They do not compromise on principles. They hold their ground like I do whenever any problem arises.”

On the occasion‚ Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said that like other promises of the PPP‚ the promise of Saraiki province would be fulfilled soon. She said the creation of new province would not only eliminate the sense of deprivation of the area but it would also strengthen the country.

Hina said it was the fourth visit of the prime minister to this area which speaks for itself that how he is giving importance to the backward areas. She also paid rich tributes to the flood affectees who helped themselves by taking full part in the rehabilitation process. She said it was a dream that we would build houses for flood affectees‚ but it was realising now with the untiring efforts of the PPP-led government.

The foreign minister also noted that most of the irrigation projects in the area have been completed while 250 villages have been provided electricity.

Information Minister Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan thanked the prime minister for visiting this far flung and backward area. She said Prime Minister Gilani had visited almost each and every village and town that had been hit by floods and he was fulfilling his pledge to rehabilitate them quickly.

PPP southern Punjab President Makhdoom Shuhabuddin in his address said that hopefully PPP would fully implement its manifesto envisaging the vision of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto to empower the women. “Very soon we will fulfil the promise of a Saraiki province,” he added.

Later, while talking to the journalists in Multan at a luncheon arranged by MPA Dr Akhtar Malik in his honour, PM Gilani reiterated his pledge to establish Seraiki province, saying that history would not forgive them if this chance was spoiled. “Millions of already crushed people will remain deprived until the Seraiki province is created,” he declared and warned the opponents of the new province that they would be rejected by the masses.

Commenting on Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s quitting the party, he said that he left the party over taking foreign ministry back from him. “Even though President Zardari was going to give him another important portfolio, the ministry of water and power, he quit. He could have served people at much larger scale while holding this portfolio,” he said.

Gilani also claimed that Qureshi joined PPP after he was refused MNA ticket by Nawaz League but said that he (Gilani) always supported him. “Both of us mentioned ourselves in parliament’s register as Mohtarma Shaheed’s brothers and we were committed to her. Now there was no logic in breaking this commitment after her demise,” he lamented.

Gilani said he had told his children that he will remain committed to the PPP even if the party refused party tickets to them. He said that PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari granted first ticket to his son Ali Moosa Gilani.

He added that difference of opinion was beauty of democracy and that he would quit practical politics but stay in party if he ever developed any serious differences with the party.

Referring to the results of by polls, he said that those raising the slogans of revolution had accepted that the results of these elections were a real revolution. “You can see we don’t have the command of ‘thana kachehri’ even then we’ve won the election and the losers have accepted their defeat,” he claimed.

Later on, the premier visited Senator Salahuddin Dogar and inquired after him. Pakistan Saraiki Party chief Taj Muhammad Langah also called on the prime minister and paid him tribute on his stand on Seraiki province. Gilani left for Islamabad in the evening after a three-day tour of Multan region.