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Pakistan’s “Swing State”

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South Punjab has become a “swing state” in Pakistan. Fortunes and misfortunes alike can be swayed by where the region chooses to place allegiance.

Malik Asim Dogar Profile Malik Asim Dogar

In the 2018 general elections, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was able to form a government in the center and in Punjab when South Punjab decided to swing its way.

One of the major reasons for Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N)’s failure in the region was the absolute abandonment of the area by Shehbaz Sharif’s administration. As compared to the development work that was done in Lahore and Central Punjab, Multan, Dera Ghazi Khan and Bahawalpur were sidelined.

And so, a South Punjab faction was created just a month before the general elections out of the electables that belong to Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and PML-N. Some of the names now waxing eloquent about the injustices wrought in the region had earlier been elected on Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) tickets too. Most of the men in the faction were feudals, gaddi-nasheens or land holders. Under the right circumstances, these politicians have been most beneficial for whomever Lady Luck is going to bestow her smile upon.

As per our constitution, Punjab is one province. But that is where the legalities end. In the minds of the people of Punjab, the south is a distinctly separate region. South Punjabis would be delighted if they get recognized as Seraiki Province. But at this point they will make do with just a title carrying just their geographic location, just as long as their dream is fulfilled.

The PTI infamously promised that within the first 100 days of the party taking charge in the capital, it will begin proceedings to carve out a South Punjab province. For one year, the issue remained dead. Once the media started discussing the issue, a South Punjab Secretariat was created. It remained toothless with Lahore still taking all the decisions pertaining to the southern districts.  An administrative attempt not backed up by political will was bound to crash. Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, described with much fanfare as a man who belonged to a backward area, decided that he did not want to be the administrator of just Central Punjab. And so the notification became a mere piece of paper.

Buzdar has said that South Punjab remains high on his agenda. He asks that no heed be paid to the propaganda of naysayers. One is tempted to ask him if the notification was suspended on the advice of the naysayers. Whatever the political reasons behind, the fact remains that the South Punjab issue is going to be raised once more. Once again, the main characters will be the politicians who have spent time in the stables of all political parties. South Punjab itself will remain woefully underdeveloped and ignored. Relentless poverty forces people to leave their homes and make their way towards bigger cities. Universities churn out graduates who will get no jobs. Vocational institutes and few and far in between. Industrial infrastructure is absent. The few agricultural reforms that were adopted will be dropped after the suspension of the notification.

PTI will have to pay heavy political costs for taking this decision. Delusioned by PPP and PML-N, the voters of South Punjab had looked towards PTI in the hope of getting their own province and equal development opportunities. After 31 months in power, Imran Khan has been unable to fulfill even a single electoral promise made to the entire country. Far from getting rid of IMF, we are now about to hand over State Bank of Pakistan to them. Instead of recovering looted wealth from former rulers, the PTI went into seat adjustment with them in the senate elections. If all failures are mentioned here, we may run out of space.

PPP has been trying to return to its past strength in Punjab since eight years now. It tried to bring PML-Q into power with the help of PML-N. But for Nawaz Sharif’s party, sharing government with a competent Chief Minister was a worse option than sitting in the opposition with a very incompetent one.

But now, PPP must be hoping anew for elusive success in the province. It has started reforming party structure and reconnecting with the central players of the area. It is true that the people of South Punjab have a soft corner for PPP. Meanwhile, powerful circles are once again ready to use the area as a swing state. Political heavyweights may be handed over to PPP if PDM is truly finished.

If that does happen, then PPP’s road to Islamabad and Lahore may well be obstacle free.

The writer tweets at @asimdogar76

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Pakistan

83 more succumb to COVID-19 in Pakistan

Islamabad: Pakistan is presently experiencing the fourth wave of coronavirus which is said to be deadlier and more contagious than previous three COVID waves.

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According to National Command and Operations Center (NCOC), around 3,902 cases of coronavirus were reported while 83 people succumbed to the disease in the last 24 hours, taking the total death toll to 26,413.

The total number of cases has reached 1,190,136.

As many as 1,071,976 patients have recovered from the disease with 5,389 critical cases.

Punjab                  

The number of patients swelled to 406,960 in the province with 12,118 causalities.

Sindh

The number of infections has surged to 440,164 in the province, while the death toll has reached 7,030.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

The confirmed cases have surged to 165,980 in the province with 5,155 casualties.

Balochistan

There are 32,456 confirmed cases while 342 patients have died from the infection so far.

AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan

There are 32,942 coronavirus cases in the AJK while the death toll has reached 712. On the other hand, there are 10,084 cases in GB with 179 coronavirus deaths.

Islamabad

There are 101,550 cases in the capital city while 877 people have lost their lives.

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Regional

Four electrocuted to death in Karachi as heavy rain lashes port city

Karachi: At least four people were electrocuted to death in Karachi as heavy rain and thunderstorms wreaked havoc in the city on Saturday.

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According to local media, under the influence of a strong monsoon system different areas of Karachi are receiving heavy downpour.

As per initial reports, a four-year-old girl died of electrocution in Shah Rasool Colony area of Clifton, while rest of the three deaths were reported in Baldia Town, Sharifabad and Light House areas.

Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) reported Saadi Town received around 81 millimetres of rain, Gulshan-e-Hadeed 73mm, PAF Base Faisal 70mm, North Karachi 48mm, Surjani Town 38.8mm while 11.6 mm of rain was reported in Orangi Town.

On the other hand, the Met Office has predicted more rain coupled with thunderstorm in Karachi today.

 

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Pakistan

Pakistan sees surge in COVID cases, active tally reaches 1,194,198

Islamabad: Pakistan is presently experiencing the fourth wave of coronavirus which is said to be deadlier and more contagious than previous three COVID waves.

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According to National Command and Operations Center (NCOC), around 4,062 cases of coronavirus were reported while 84 people succumbed to the disease in the last 24 hours, taking the total death toll to 26,497.

The total number of cases has reached 1,194,198.

As many as 1,076,112 patients have recovered from the disease with 5,383 critical cases.

Punjab                 

The number of patients swelled to 408,758 in the province with 12,135 causalities.

Sindh

The number of infections has surged to 441,410 in the province, while the death toll has reached 7,073.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

The confirmed cases have surged to 166,564 in the province with 5,175 casualties.

Balochistan

There are 32,480 confirmed cases while 342 patients have died from the infection so far.

AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan

There are 33,037 coronavirus cases in the AJK while the death toll has reached 714. On the other hand, there are 10,109 cases in GB with 179 coronavirus deaths.

Islamabad

There are 101,840 cases in the capital city while 879 people have lost their lives.

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