LAHORE - The new provinces in south Punjab, if craved out, will face no immediate problem of resources to put in place a new administrative structure there, say the proponents of the new federating units, who believe that the southern region would be getting more funds under the NFC Award compared to what is being dispensed to it under the present arrangement.

TheNation talked to two prominent personalities from the southern Punjab -Taaj Muhammad Langah and Muhammad Ali Durrani - to discuss viability of new administrative units at a time when the country is facing financial crunch due to a number of reasons.

Taaj Langah, whose family once ruled over Multan province for over a century (from 1434 to 1541) and who had been championing the cause of separate province for the entire Seraiki belt (including Bahawalpur) since 1970, was of the view that new province would not only be economically viable, it would also be getting more resources under the new NFC Award.

Durrani, former federal minister for information, who has been supporting restoration of previous status of the State of Bahawalpur for the last over five years, also believed that new province would be more resource-rich compared to rest of the Punjab. Both presented facts and figures to substantiate their points of view.

It merits a mention here that while Langah is opposed to granting of provincial status to Bahawalpur division, Durrani is in favour of two separate provinces in the southern region.

When asked as to how the new province would generate its resources especially in a situation when it would have to establish a separate administrative set-up to meet the new requirements, Mr Langah said that out of Rs 350 billion Punjab got as its share under the last NFC award, around 250 billion would go to the Janoobi Province under the criterion set for distribution of resources among the provinces.

“The resource distribution takes place keeping in view various factors including those of population, under-development and royalties on resources,” he said, adding, “South Punjab constitutes around 50 per cent of Punjab’s total population and hence this much percentage of the amount being given to Punjab under the NFC would be allocated to the proposed province under the new arrangement. Similarly, he added all royalty on cotton, which is mainly produced in that region and a part of that on rice currently being received by Punjab would also go to the new province which would also be getting its share on account of under-development.

“We would also demand royalty on electricity as Kot Addu Thermal Power Plant was generating 3,400 MW of electricity,” he said.

According to him, the annual budget of the proposed province would exceed Rs 400 billion, a seemingly big figure compared to Rs 653 billion earmarked for the entire Punjab last year.

Answering a question about the availability of buildings to set up Civil Secretariat, Provincial Assembly and Governor and CM secretariats, Langah replied that there was no dearth of building infrastructure in Multan. “Initially, Circuit House can be used as Civil Secretariat, Commissioner and DC Houses as CM Secretariat and 20-kanal bungalows of irrigation department could be used as offices for the governor and the chief minister. He said new chief minister can also sit at existing PM House in Multan.

It is relevant to state here that it had been a general complaint of the people from south Punjab that Takht-e-Lahore had been depriving them of their due share of resources and that the region had been kept under developed over the years.

Talking about the availability of resources for the proposed province of Bahawalpur, Durrani said that new province could generate Rs 120 billion annually through different sources. “After Bahawalpur becomes a province, it would be getting Rs 92 billion per annum as its share under the NFC Award on the basis of its population and other factors. It has also the potential to raise another Rs25 billion annually through taxation,” he informed this scribe. He said it was unfortunate that Bahawalpur got only Rs 15 billion under the head of both development and non-development expenditure in the last PFC award. He said the new province could allocate Rs 20 billion to meet its non-development expenditure, whereas it was receiving only Rs 2.5 billion under this head at the moment.

About availability of buildings to house new departments and offices, Durrani said several buildings like Noor Mahal, Darbar Mahal, Circuit House and Bahawalpur Library Building could be made available for the purpose. It may be noted here that Noor Mahal building is currently under the control of Army.

Durrani said old residence of Amir of Bahawalpur could be used as chief minister house.