LAHORE  - The troubled ruling PML-N suffered another major blow on Monday when eight of its parliamentarians from southern Punjab announced quitting the assemblies as well as the party.

After basking in the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz shine for well over four years, the group has deserted it by invoking the old slogan of securing a separate province consisting of relatively impoverished southern part.

Defections and desertions near the general elections are not uncommon in the country, but the recent quick defections are particularly ominous for the future of party’s central leadership who are facing a plethora of corruption cases.

These lawmakers – six of them Members of the National Assembly and two of Punjab Assembly – claim that within days a number of other party leaders will quit assemblies and join them in their struggle.

The resigning MNAs are Makhdum Khusro Bakhtyar (Rahim Yar Khan), Syed Asghar Ali Shah (Minchanabad, Bahawalnagar), Tahir Bashir Cheema (Bahawalnagar), Tahir Iqbal Chaudhry (Vehari), Rana Qasim Noon (Multan) and Basit Bokhari (Muzaffargarh), while Sumara Khan and Nasrullah Dareshak are the MPAs who quit the assembly.

Announcing formation of ‘South Punjab Front’ on one-point agenda of creation of South Punjab province before the media at a hotel, the group said that this has been a standing demand of local people since 1970.

They announced former PM Mir Balakh Sher Mazari as chairman, Dareshak vice chairman, Khusro president, Tahir Bashir Cheema general secretary, Basit Bokhari senior vice president and Tahir Iqbal Chaudhry, Rana Qasim Noon and Ch Samiullah as vice presidents of the front.

In an interesting twist, hours after he announced quitting along with others before the media, MNA Syed Muhammad Asghar reportedly said he would not be resigning from his seat or the party but would lend his support to the movement.

According to reports, another two PML-N MPAs Ali Asghar Munda and Tariq Mahmood Bajwa have announced abandoning the party and contesting the next election as independents.

Munda is interested in facing federal minister Rana Tanvir and Mahmood will face federal minister Birjees for national assembly seats in Sheikhupura district.

These developments have created an emergency situation for the PML-N, especially in Punjab which is considered the stronghold of the Sharifs-led party.

A few days ago, MNA Dr Ramesh Kumar from Sindh had quit the party to join the PTI.

In December last year, two MNAs and three MPAs presented their resignations and announced their dissociation with the ruling party at a public meeting held in Faisalabad.

The ruling party in fact has been facing difficult times since July last year when its top leader Nawaz Sharif was disqualified as the premier by the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers case.

In February this year, the apex court disqualified Nawaz from heading the party as its president.

Talking to the media, Mazari and others expressed their commitment to continue their struggle for South Punjab. They talked about a sense of deprivation among people of South Punjab, saying the government just deceived them, leaving them in the lurch.

Mir Balakh called for dividing Punjab into three provinces according to its demographic strength which in the last census was 62 of the total population of the country. He said other provinces raised questions about Punjab as this province got the maximum while the southern parts were deprived of basic rights.

They all had single outlook that South Punjab will provide the whole people of Punjab with better administration side by side strengthening the Federation.

They said the time will come when no political party will be able to win the election in the South bypassing their group. They said if deprivation of the South stayed, it will badly hit the federation.

Bakhtyar, who joined the PML-N after winning the 2013 elections as an independent candidate, said their caravan will continue to move on till the objective of South Punjab province is achieved. He said this was part of the PML-N manifesto but ignored.

He hoped more members will join them soon.

“The day will come when a number of MPAs will resign from the assembly,” he added.

Bakhtyar said in 2010-11, resolutions were carried in the PA and the Senate for South Punjab province but to no avail.

He said more and more people were in touch with them to take their cause ahead and they won’t take rest till its achievement.

Bakhtyar said they loved Lahore equally and considered it their second home but this city would also be relieved from additional population burden from other districts when a new South Punjab province would be created.

But, he regretted that South Punjab did not have representation in the Senate though it housed 46 NA seats and had the size equal to KP.

He also vowed to move door to door and reach out to everyone who could support their struggle.

Bakhtyar painted a grim picture of southern people, saying that they did not have the facility of even clean drinking water.

The area lacks health as well as education facilities while it just have five per cent share in the jobs of the province, he added.

The economic structure is fast eliminating in that part where majority still was without basic facilities and was living in the centuries old style, he said adding, Punjab has 27 per cent poverty of which 51 per cent was in South Punjab.

He said increasing number of provinces in view of their administrative needs was not repelled even in the neighbouring countries of Iran and India.



Another jolt for ruling PML-N