MULTAN – President Asif Ali Zardari declared on Saturday that South Punjab would be made a separate province before general elections.

Addressing the parliamentarians of PPP from Multan region, the President said that the decision to make South Punjab a separate province would be made during prevailing regime. He added the residents of South Punjab were highly annoyed with Takht-e-Lahore and they should be given their right. “If they are denied their right, the reaction might be dangerous,” he warned. He said the prime minister should hold talks with all political parties on this issue and finalise the name of the proposed province in consultation with all stakeholders.

He said the PPP always strived to give identity and rights to the masses. “We gave identity to the residents of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and now we’ll give this right to the dwellers of South Punjab,” he added.

Referring to judges’ appointment in superior courts, the president said they would be appointed on merit instead of nepotism or personal likes and dislikes. He said the son of a poor also had equal right to become a judge.

Monitoring Desk adds: Zardari came forward to shield his prime minister against increasing pressure due to the alleged involvement of his son in ephedrine case, saying Ali Musa Gilani was falsely implicated in the drug case, reported a private TV channel.Talking to party office-bearers, the president said he had come to Multan to express solidarity with Yousuf Raza Gilani. Zardari said Gilani’s son was falsely implicated in drug case, adding he had also been implicated in a drug case in the past.

The president said he would visit every nook and corner of the South Punjab in a bid to carve out Seraiki province.

Zardari said he had voluntarily ceded his powers while Punjab Chief Minister was holding several ministries. He said the PPP was able to form its government in Punjab but it let the PML-N to do so.

Staff Reporter adds: President Zardari declared that work was underway to announce a pro-people budget with a view to offering maximum relief to the general public.

Addressing the delegations of PPP’s parliamentarians, ticket-holders and party workers, he said that the leadership of the Party was aware of the problems being faced by the people and was adopting all possible measures to offer relief to them.

The president hinted that the general elections would be held on time, asking the workers and office-bearers of PPP to gear up for the polls at all levels as the successful completion of tenure was in sight.

Zardari asserted he and his party did not believe in any vendetta or political victimisation. “We’ll keep pushing the policy of reconciliation forth as it is the only way forward to strengthen democracy and steer the country out of prevailing crisis,” he added.

Zardari claimed the initiatives launched by Shaheed Benazir Bhutto were discontinued by the past regimes as a result of which the country fell prey to many crises like the prevailing energy shortage.

He said it was for the first time that foreign policy matters like unanimous adoption of recommendations of Parliamentary Committee on National Security for new terms of engagement with US/NATO/ISAF were openly debated in the Parliament and the deliberations were being held in a transparent manner in accordance with the wishes of the people of Pakistan.

He said the Election Commission, with the consultation of all the political parties, had succeeded to evolve error-free electoral rolls while other steps like mandatory computerised NIC for casting vote would close the door of rigging forever.

While addressing the women office-bearers from Multan, Lodhran, Khanewal and Vehari districts, the president said the party was committed to the welfare of the vulnerable groups of the society like women as it had undertaken many important legislative, political and social measures in this regard. Declaring Benazir Income Support Programme as government’s flagship programme, he said that the scheme empowered the rural women economically. He added many components of the programme such as Waseela-e-Haq, Waseela-e-Rozagar and Waseela-e-Sehat were serving as major vehicle for socio-economic empowerment of the women especially in the rural areas.

Recounting various legislative measures such as ‘Women Protection from Harassment at Workplace Act 2010, Amendment in PPC 509, Acid Crime Prevention Act 2011, the Prevention of anti-Women Practices Act 2011, Fund for Women in Distress and Detention Act 2011, and empowerment of National Commission on the Status of Women, he declared them as major steps that reflected government’s commitment and efforts to address women-related issues for their greater participation in the national mainstream.

Those who were present during the meeting with parliamentarians included MNAs, Makhdoom Shahab-ud-Din, Nawab Liaqat, Naseem Chaudhary, Abdul Qadir Gillani, Iftikhar Nazir, Natasha Daultana, Mehmood Hayat and Asghar Jatt. MPAs present during the meeting included Aamir Dogar, Nazim Shah, Aamir Ghani, Ahmed Mujtaba Gillani, Jamil Shah, Akram Kanjo, Ijaz Noon, Shafique Araein, Fayyaz Warraich and Sardar Khan Khichi.