MULTAN: President Asif Ali Zardari made a spirited defence of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Saturday, putting down a “barrage of false allegations” against him to his commitment to creation of a Seraiki province.
During a meeting with parliamentarians and delegations of People’s Party from Multan division, Mr Zardari cited the “fabrication” of a case against Ali Musa Gilani, the prime minister’s son, in the ephedrine import scam to buttress his assertions about a “witch-hunt against” Mr Gilani.
The President also made a significant statement on the province issue, saying that he had authorised Mr Gilani to begin efforts for “consensus-building” by reaching out to major political players.
“Seraiki province will be created by the present government before the general election and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani himself will make the announcement,” he said.
The creation of Seraiki province would be a great setback for the PML-N, Mr Zardari observed.
He said since the creation of Pakistan, the Seraiki region had been deprived of its rights and wondered that “if we do not give rights to the people of this area, who will do so”.
“People could join terrorist groups or small political parties by isolating themselves if they are denied their rights. This will weaken the country,” the President remarked. “Creation of a Seraiki province is not a political issue but a matter of safeguarding integrity of the country.” He said that to make the Seraiki province viable there was a need to include some non-Seraiki districts, too.
He said although he had ceded presidential powers voluntarily, the chief minister of Punjab was clinging to many ministries.
In reply to a question about loadshedding, he said “we will not go into election until we ensure availability of electricity for 24 hours”.
Asif Zardari said the tribal area of southern Punjab (Rajanpur and Dera Ghazi Khan) would be given the status of “A” area and he had directed the interior ministry to submit a report to him in this regard.