ISLAMABAD - A high-level meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday decided that the government will soon table a bill in the National Assembly for creation of a new province in south Punjab.

The meeting was attended by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, PTI leader Jahangir Tareen, Food Minister Khusro Bakhtiar, Special Assistant to Prime Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan and Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, provincial ministers and members of national and provincial assembly belonging to south Punjab.

Later, briefing media on the decisions taken by the meeting, Shah Mehmood Qureshi along with Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan said it was also decided to set up a South Punjab secretariat with initial cost of Rs. 3.5 billion.

He said the Prime Minister has called a meeting of the parliamentary party today to take them into confidence on the issue, adding that the ruling party will start reaching out to other political parties in this regard as well.

“Right now, no party has a two-thirds majority in Parliament,” said Qureshi and hoped that PPP would throw its support behind the bill.  He also urged PML-N leaders in the Senate and National Assembly to convince their leadership to support the bill.

“The capital of South Punjab will be decided after consultations with the government and the people,” he said. The foreign minister shared that 35% of Punjab’s budget will be set aside for South Punjab. He added that in the past the funds for the region were promised but not allocated. He also shared that in April an additional chief secretary and an additional inspector general of police of south would be appointed.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi expressed the hope that other political parties will support the bill – giving the government two-thirds majority to pass it.

“Earlier, promises made to the people of South Punjab but were not implemented,” the foreign minister said.

He also maintained that the government has decided to establish a secretariat for the ease of the people, and said an additional chief secretary and additional inspector general will be appointed next in April.

Qureshi, while making a case for South Punjab, said that once a province has been created, it will also get its share from the National Finance Commission Award.

In 2019, the foreign minister had stated that the PTI-led federal government will establish a separate secretariat and a public service commission for the proposed south Punjab province in the ongoing financial year.