KARACHI: Former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Saturday hinted his efforts to create south Punjab had led to his disqualification as premier.

The PPP leader recalled the decade-old event during his speech at the Sindhi Siraiki Conference at Arts Council on Saturday.

In a veiled accusation against powerful corridors in Pakistan, the PPP leader claimed it was his move to carve out a south Punjab province that led to his ouster as prime minister.

In 2012, Mr Gilani was disqualified by the Supreme Court following his conviction by a seven-member bench for contempt of court.

During his speech, the former premier shared the details of the initiative taken by the then PPP government to create a new province out of Punjab.

“We first made a committee headed by Farhatullah Babar who invited every single politician, academic, lawyers and rights activist to seek their suggestions,” he said.

“When we developed a consensus, we moved for the passage of the bill from the Senate,” he said, adding it was not a mere resolution but a move to amend the Constitution.

“The bill was passed with a two-thirds majority and we moved forward to make our dream true.”

However, Mr Gilani was disqualified before the bill could be passed by the National Assembly.

The auditorium then burst into laughter and applauded when he shared the details of his conversation with then-president Asif Ali Zardari a few days after his disqualification.

Claims people of the area had been ‘deceived’ by many govts, only PPP ‘took a step forward’

“I went and told Zardari saheb that I am off the hook now. Please do something for the south Punjab issue in the National Assembly,” he said, narrating the event in Siraki.

“He [Zardari] replied. You still don’t get why you are off the hook?” implying that his quest for the province didn’t sit well with some quarters who ousted him.

“I hope now you also know [the reason behind the disqualification],” he said, while referring to the audience.

The former prime minister spoke openly about how the people of south Punjab were “deceived” in the name of a new province by different governments. “But it was only the PPP government which had gone a step forward.”

He said the initiative was started by former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

“When BB Shaheed became prime minister for the first time in 1988, I went to her and without any hesitation put the case for the south Punjab province,” Mr Gilani said.

“She asked me to sit with the people of south Punjab, discuss all prospects, listen to them and reach a consensus on what they want. If they agree on a new province then we have to make one.”

South Punjab region comprises Multan, Baha­walpur and Dera Ghazi Khan divisions, apart from Bhakkar and Jhang districts.

It comprises 57 per cent of the total area and 36pc of the total population of Punjab.

Published in Dawn, February 5th, 2023

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