BAHAWALPUR - Reacting strongly to the spending of 85 percent of development funds meant for southern Punjab in Multan alone and completely ignoring other districts, the Senate Functional Committee on Problems of Less Developed Areas on Tuesday said that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has aggravated the deprivations of other districts through unjust distribution of funds. The committee meeting at Circuit House here for the second day on Tuesday with its Chairman Senator Dr Abdul Malik in the chair was attended by its members Senator Muhammad Ali Durrani, Senator Nilofar Bakhtiar and Senator Dr Khalid Soomro besides the officials of the Cabinet Division and Planning Commission.

The committee observed that if the people are not compensated for the injustice, the issue would echo everywhere. The meeting approved the recommendations for submission to the government to declare Bahawalpur tax-free zone, establish an engineering university, open IT University campus at Rahim Yar Khan, set up a modern abattoir and milk collection centre in Bahawalpur, declare Drawar Fort the international heritage and construct Lodhran-Khanewal Expressway. In the meeting, the committee members also supported the restoration of Bahawalpur province for the elimination of backwardness and poverty in the region.

The participants of the meeting were told that an amount of Rs170 billion is being spent on 64 big projects for the provision of education, health and other basic facilities in the southern Punjab.

The meeting was informed that a modern slaughterhouse is being constructed in Multan. On this, Senator Muhammad Ali Durrani pointed out that the cattle market in Bahawalpur is the biggest such market in the country and Cholistan livestock has an important place in the world but the construction of abattoir in Multan, instead of Bahawalpur, is sheer injustice with Bahawalpur region. Senator Dr Khalid Soomro said the wisdom demands the construction of a milk collection centre in Bahawalpur besides the slaughterhouse.

The Cabinet Division officials told the meeting that during the past one year, a sum of Rs1.456 billion was spent in Multan under the People’s Works Programme, Rs192 million in Bahawalpur, Rs190 million in Bahawalnagar, Rs43 million in Rahim Yar Khan, Rs342 million in Vehari, Rs490 million in Khanewal, Rs318 million in Lodhran, Rs149 million in Dera Ghazi Khan and a sum of Rs296 million has been spent in Rajanpur. Strongly protesting it, the committee declared the spending of much more funds in Multan as compared to other districts a sheer injustice with other districts of the southern Punjab and said that it would further aggravate the deprivations of other areas.

The committee recommended the earliest execution of the projects, including the establishment of an engineering university, setting up of a campus of the IT University in Rahim Yar Khan and Lodhran-Khanewal Motorway, announced by the prime minister during his visit to Bahawalpur.

Addressing the meeting, Senator Dr Abdul Malik said that the prime minister has committed injustice with the southern Punjab districts except Multan so the committee would convey to the government its reservations on this. Senator Muhammad Ali Durrani said that Bahawalpur is one of the underdeveloped regions in the country and by spending 85 percent of the development funds for the southern Punjab only in Multan, the people of other districts have been meted out injustice and excess.

Senator Nilofar Bakhtiar said that Bahawalpur is facing poverty and local people are upset with the decisions of the federal government. She said if this injustice is not stopped, it would echo everywhere. She said that after seeing the state of affairs in Bahawalpur, they would fully support Senator Muhammad Ali Durrani for the restoration of Bahawalpur province.

Senator Dr Khalid Soomro said that spending of 85 percent of development funds only in Multan and ignoring other cities is tantamount to robbing the people of their right and they would raise voice in the Parliament against this injustice.