While the issue of a separate Seraiki province has so far been raised mainly by the intellectuals and out-of-mainstream politicians, it is now on the agenda of the political elite also.
The Seraikis have a language of their own. They also have a geographical habitat which is different from much of the rest of Punjab. Its Rohi, Thal, Damaan have been celebrated with deep love by poets from Khwaja Fareed to Dilshad Kulanchvi and evoke feelings not shared by their Punjabi neighbours. Its Pilu, once abundant but now a rarity in Punjab, also provides popular imagery to Seraiki poetry. While jhumar is a popular folk dance in Seraiki area, Punjabis are enthused by altogether different steps and movements of bhangra and ludhi. Unlike Punjabis who comfortably settled in Canada and parts of the US as early as in late 19th century and joined the British Army to fight wars in far off lands around the same period, the Seraikis have led till a few decades back a somewhat sedentary life. The tendency is described in the proverb: Safar-e-Multani ta ba Eidgah i.e, the Multani hardly travels beyond the Eidgah, constructed by a governor of the later Moghul era in 18th century on what in those days comprised the boundary of the city.
Multan has retained a separate identity for hundreds of years before and after the Muslim rule. Under the Moghuls too it had its own governor. It was first amalgamated into Punjab under Ranjit Singh who was out to unify and extend Punjab through diplomacy, cunning and conquest in early 19th century. While Ranjit occupied Multan, Bahawalpur remained an independent state till it was made a part of One Unit and at the latter’s demise in 1970 merged with Punjab on orders from General Yahya Khan amid widespread protests. A number of protestors demanding a separate status for Bahwalpur were awarded lashes by a military court.
Numerous reasons have attracted people to the idea of a separate Seraiki province, the foremost being a sense of domination by Punjab. Having better access to bureaucracy and army, Punjabis acquired vast tracts of land in Cholistan during and after the Zia era. This was the latest but by no means the only instance of domination. Many army officers awarded land in Cholistan also hail from Punjab. This has sent a wave of resentment among thousands of local landless and small cultivators.
Nowadays Seraiki intellectuals and politicians are doing public rounds on how to get the idea of a Seraiki province realised? Some support the restoration of defunct Bahawalpur province that has administrative control of other Seraiki speaking districts. Others demand the proposed Seraiki province be carved out of all Seraiki districts of Punjab and the NWFP through a presidential ordinance.
Islamabad-based Seraiki intellectual Ahsan Wagah says that ideally not only Seraiki province but all provinces should be based on lingo-cultural boundaries.
He said the formation of a new province was not a simple act as it would require a lot of work to be settled. He said the reinstatement of Bahawalpur province as administrative unit was something which the people of the area demanded as the province was taken away from them by force.
He said the demand for a larger Seraiki province had been matured and the growing disparity between the central Punjab and the Seraiki region had made the issue unavoidable.
He said the proposed Seraiki province should be consisted of 22 districts:
Seraiki Qaumi Party (SQP) General Secretary Mansoor Kareem Sial said that the restoration of the Bahawalpur province was not viable economically.
He said that it would be amusing that the province would consist of three districts while it would have the administrative control of more than dozen districts. He added the creation of the Seraiki province was also a constitutional issue.
Former Punjab deputy speaker Mian Usman Abbasi said the restoration of the Bahawalpur province and putting other Seraiki districts under its control was the shortest way towards the Seraiki province. He said Bahawalpur held infrastructure required for a province and the status of Bahawalpur as province could be restored without any constitutional hindrance.
Muttahida Tehreek Bahali Sooba Bahawalpur General Secretary Qari Moonis Baloch says their movement is not concerned with any cultural or linguistic aspect as the provinces and they only want the restoration of the Bahawalpur province as it was during one unit rule till 1955.
He claimed that major political figures of that time such as Mumtaz Daultana, Asghar Khan, Mufti Mehmood, Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan, Maulana Bhashani, Ghulam Ghaus Hazarvi, Maulana Maudodi, Shorish Kashmeri and Maulana Abdullah Darkhawsti had supported the movement for the restoration of the Bahawalpur province when the one unit was dissolved in 1970.
Zahoor Dhareja, a Seraiki leader, however, opposes the restoration of Bahawalpur province, saying the Seraiki province should be based on cultural boundaries.
Dhareja said that nobody could object to the formation of a province for the Seraikis when the Sindhis are living is Sindh, Punjabis in Punjab and Balochs in Balochistan while the Pashtuns are demanding the change of the name of their province.
He said the restoration of Bahawalpur province would be injustice with other Seraiki districts, particularly Dera Ismail Khan, Bannu and Tank that are historically and culturally the part of the Seraiki belt but were included in the NWFP by the British regime. he establishment of the Seraiki province did not need a two-thirds majority in parliament and it could only be established through a presidential ordinance, Dhareja added.
Bahawalpur, Bahawalnagar, Rahim Yar Khan, Multan, Khanewal, Vehari, Pakpattan, Sahiwal, Okara, Lodhran, Muzaffargarh, Layyah, Dera Ghazi Khan, Rajanpur, Jhang, Toba Tek Singh, Mianwali, Bhakkar, Khushab, Dera Ismail Khan, Bannu and Tank. Boundaries Of Seraiki Province, By Shakeel Ahmad DAWN.com
LAHORE – Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani has maintained that PPP being a symbol of the Federation is totally against any fragmentation of provinces.
He said President Asif Ali Zardari and he himself were in total agreement on this issue, asserting that raising this particular issue at this point in time when country was facing more pressing issues was both ill-timed and inappropriate.
He asked all those, spearheading the move for a separate province to first take up the issue at meetings of their respective parties, which he believed, was the right forum to deliberate upon such matters.
Gilani expressed these views while talking exclusively to The Nation on Tuesday.
A new debate has started in the country after some parliamentarians demanded a separate province status for Southern Punjab. The demand echoed both in the National and Punjab assemblies with politicians from Southern Punjab strongly defending the plea for a separate province.
Reacting to this demand, Gilani said: “The country has been passing through the most critical phase of its history, confronting more pressing issues like ongoing war on terror, deteriorating law and order situation, obtaining in parts of the country as a result of this war, economic meltdown, besides the all-important constitutional issues such as NFC Award and activation of Council of Common Interests.
According to him, these issues need government’s top priority. “Hence the timing for raising the spectre of a Saraiki province is both badly timed and unfortunate,” he asserted
Gilani expressed the apprehension that such calls would open a Pandora’s box, which the country could ill afford at this juncture. He maintained that any such measure would in any case require a constitutional nod, requiring a complete unanimity among the political parties in the first place.
On political front, Gilani said the top priority at the moment for the government was to make changes in the Constitution according to the Charter of Democracy, especially the undoing of the 17th Amendment and 58-2(b), and both the PPP and PML-N were in complete agreement as far as these changes were concerned.
He most vehemently debunked the allegation that President Zardari had been fomenting the issue of Saraiki province.
He said that at a recent party meeting both President Zardari and he strongly opposed the idea of a separate province and described the move an attempt to destabilise the Federation.
Bahawalpur City, is located in southeastern Punjab province, Pakistan. Bahawalpur is 889 kms from Karachi.
Saraiki is the local language of the area. Urdu, Punjabi and English are also spoken and understood by most of the people.
Bahawalpur originally was a vassal of the great Sikh empire built by Maharajah Ranjeet Singh. In 1936 Bahawalpur stopped paying tribute and openly declared independence. In the Anglo Sikh wars Bahawalpur supported the British and this gurantedd its survival.The founder of the State of Bahawalpur was Nawab Bahawal Khan Abbasi I. The Abbasi family ruled over the State for more than 200 years (1748 to 1954). During the rule of the last Nawab Sir Sadiq Muhammad Khan Abbasi V, Bahawalpur State was merged with Pakistan. During the 1960′s (1954) the Nawab agreed (Agreement Dated 3rd October, 1947) for Bahawalpur to be absorbed into modern Pakistan. He was however given special priveledges including the right to import several cars duty free each year. Bahawalpur was formerly the capital of the state and now is the District and Divisional Headquarters of Bahawalpur Division.
The Nawabs of Bahawalpur originally came from Sindh; they formed a princely state and assumed independence in 1802.
The City, which lies just south of the Sutlej River, was founded in 1748 by Muhammad Bahawal Khan and was incorporated as a municipality in 1874. It is the site of the Adamwahan (Empress) Bridge, the only Railway Bridge over the Sutlej River in Pakistan, and has rail links with Peshawar and Karachi.
The region surrounding Bahawalpur to the west, called the Sindh, is a fertile alluvial tract in the Sutlej River valley that is irrigated by floodwaters, planted with groves of date palms, and thickly populated. The chief crops are wheat, gram, cotton, sugarcane, and dates. Sheep and cattle are raised for export of wool and hides. East of Bahawalpur is the Pat, or Bar, a tract of land considerably higher than the adjoining valley. It is chiefly desert irrigated by the Sutlej inundation canals and yields crops of wheat, cotton, and sugarcane. Farther east, the Rohi, or Cholistan, is a barren desert tract, bounded on the north and west by the Hakra depression with mound ruins of old settlements along its high banks; it is still inhabited by nomads. The principal inhabitants of the region surrounding Bahawalpur are Jat and Baluchi peoples. There are many historical sites in the area, including Uch, southwest of Bahawalpur, an ancient town dating from Indo-Scythian (Y?eh-chih) settlement (c. 128 BC to AD 450). Pop. (1981) City, 180,263; (1981 prelim.) metropolitan area, 695,000.
Bahawalpur is also an important agricultural training and educational center. Soapmaking and cotton ginning are important enterprises; cotton, silk, embroidery, carpets, and extraordinarily delicate pottery are produced. Factories producing cottonseed oil and cottonseed cake were built in the 1970s. It is an important marketing center for the surrounding areas and is located on the crossroads between Peshawar, Lahore, Quetta and Karachi. Bahawalpur is also known for its distinctly embroidered slippers and shoes and the filigree pottery which is made here.
The City is located favorably for commerce, lying at the junction of trade routes from the east, south-east, and south. It is a center for trade in wheat, cotton, millet, and rice grown in the surrounding region. Dates and mangoes are also grown here. Canals supply water for irrigation. The principal industries are cotton ginning, rice and flour milling, and the handweaving of textiles.
Sutlej (Chinese, Langq?n Zangbo or Xiangquan He; Indian, Satlej), chief tributary of the Indus River. It rises in Tibet, flows south-west through Himachal Pradesh State, India, and then passes through the great arid plains of Punjab Province, Pakistan, joining the Indus after a course of about 1,450 km (900 mi.). The Sutlej is the south-easternmost of the five rivers of the Punjab, the other four being its two main tributaries, the Be?s and the Chenab, together with two branches of the latter. Below the confluence of the Be?s, the river is sometimes called the Ghara, and its lowest course, after receiving the Chenab, is called the Panjnad (“five rivers”)…
Bahawalpur was a princely state of the Punjab in what is now Pakistan, stretching along the southern bank of the Sutlej and Indus Rivers, with its capital city at Bahawalpur. The state was counted amongst the Rajputana states (now Rajasthan) to the southeast. After two centuries of varying degrees of independence, the state became part of Pakistan in 1947. In 1941, the state had a population of 1,341,209 living in an area of 45,911 km² (17,494 sq mi). It was divided into three districts: Bahawalpur, Rahimyar Khan and Bahawalnagar.
The state was founded in 1802 by Nawab Mohammad Bahawal Khan II after the break up of Durrani Empire. Nawab Mohammad Bahawal Khan III signed the state’s first treaty with the British on 22 February 1833, guaranteeing the independence of the Nawab. The state acceded to Pakistan on 7 October 1947 and was merged into the province of West Pakistan on 14 October 1955.