Previously part of PML-N, several lawmakers who formed the Junoobi Punjab Suba Mahaz (JPSM), officially merged into the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) yesterday. They will now contest the 2018 general elections under the PTI banner.
— Tehreek-e-Insaf (@InsafPK) May 9, 2018
With so many changes underway in the months leading up to the general elections in Pakistan, it is hard to keep track of the implications of said changes. In light of this, it is crucial to understand what JPSM is and what the movement stands for. Equally important is an understanding of why PTI jumped to include the lawmakers and their manifesto into the party.
About a month ago, several PML-N lawmakers resigned from the party on grounds of there being no space to rally for rights of those in South Punjab. South Punjab includes the cities Burewala, Bhakkar, Bahawalnagar, Bahawalpur, Khanewal, Dera Ghazi Khan, Lodhran, and, Multan amongst others. The developmental bias by the PML-N government isn’t unknown. It is clear as day that projects like the Metro by Punjab administration, polish metropoliton cities like Lahore and Islamabad more than any place else. MPA, Karam Dad Wahla, who joined JPSM said that the government spent Rs240 billion on Lahore’s metro train alone as compared to just Rs206 million on 40 million people of south Punjab. The JPSM’s fundamental rallying point for a separate South Punjab Province is based on this discrimination.
General Secretary, Tahir Bashir Cheema, said that JPSM “is by no means a political party. This is Janoobi Punjab Sooba Mahaz which means a struggle for rights.” And this idea of it being a political front and not a party is what paved the way for its integration with PTI.
Welcome to PTI Family
— MNA (@Engr_Naveed111) May 9, 2018
If the creation of South Punjab province helps get rid of some systemic discrimination or even plain neglect at the hands of the government, then JPSM’s proposition certainly shouldn’t be an ill-conceived idea. Punjab is a giant of a province for a single administrative unit to oversee it. Breaking it up might just help distribute the administrative burdens (or biases) that befall the current government. However, the underlying political motivations cannot be ignored.
PPP are absolutely gutted due to South Punjab block of parliamentarian joining PTI. Zardari sahib was seeing PPP’s re-entry into Punjab via the same JPSM group of politcians. Ex PM Gillani failed complete his allocated task. PPP is back to the drawing board again.
— Anjum Kiani (@AnjumKiani) May 8, 2018
As elaborately mentioned by this Twitter user, PTI and PPP were seemingly in the running to acquire the politicians that left PML-N last month. Breaking PML-N’s monopoly in Punjab is the hidden (or not so hidden) agenda here. So, PTI swiftly closing in and promising a separate province in South Punjab is certainly a quick opportunity grabbing moment. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has also claimed that his party PPP alone can fulfill the vision carried by JPSM. Bilawal substantiated this claim by reminding everyone of how PPP alone brought the idea of a new province to the table in the Senate. Ironically, those supporting the decision now were opposed to the idea back then. So opportunism is certainly a major factor in PTI’s decision. However, one can hardly consider this to be a misplaced one, since grabbing such opportunities is the mainstay of politics worldwide.
Written memorandum between PTI & Janoobi Punjab Sooba Mahaz for the new province. pic.twitter.com/1mg0QfSKkK
— Rehman Azhar (@rehman_azhar) May 9, 2018
But it remains to see whether this integration actually bears fruit for JPSM should PTI win the elections. PTI has promised to set in motion procedures to make the new province within 100 days of their election. PTI’s tough time in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa lately and Imran Khan’s eyebrow-raising bouts of opportunism make it uncertain as to what one should expect from his promises. So, if South Punjab is eventually turned into a separate province, it is a gamble to see how much it really will contribute to cohesion nationally.