PRE INDEPENDENCE BAHAWALPUR REGION

British were amongst the pioneers who commenced research on the etymology of Saraaiki and traced back its origin and gave strong footing or pattern on which the language matured and developed in its present form. The East India Company officials and the later British officers who were appointed in the areas such as Multan, Dera Ghazi Khan, and Muzaffargarh were the ones who undertook the task of translation and compiled vernaculars. They knew that the language spoken in those areas was quite different from rest of Punjab and the people had an entirely different dialect and they sounded an entirely different accent from the Punjabi but there was not a given name for the Saraaiki and the British deemed it and termed it as a part or branch of Punjab. Official recognition was yet to be granted to Saraaiki. The sheer neglect and the utter ignorance of the authorities created a sense of deprivation in the locals and they started thinking on the patterns that could earn them and their culture a due recognition. It would be not an err to say that the Saraaiki language was not even branded a language in those days rather the British officials called it Landaa, Jugdaali, or Jattki.
A Sikh ruler Ranjeet Singh conquered Punjab and he annexed Multan but he kept the local language and Identity intact. He did not change the autonomous status of Multan and controlled it without any change in the political boundary. It is said that the Ranjeet Singh appointed Mal-Raaj the governor of Multan who fought vigorously for the autonomy of Multan but later the British defeated the governor and annexed the region with Lahore and for the first time in the history the independent region of Saraaiki Belt was called Punjab. The defeat was so impressive for the Singh that the British easily coerced the Sikh ruler to sign the treaty of 1809 in Amritsar which confined the territory of the Singh to the banks of Satluj.
Dirawar Fort in Bahawalpur

EMERGENCE OF SARAAIKI MOVEMENT PAVING AWAY FOR THE PROVINCIAL RESTORATION MOVEMENT

 Saraiki movement began in the post-70s amid saraaiki literary festivals. It was then when for the first time in the Saraiki history the name Saraaiki was coined for the language and the dwellers of the region Bahawalpur and Multan and it gave them an identity. It was decided in the festival that there are five letters in the Saraiki language which differs from Punjabi so they ought to be included in Saraiki permanently because they give the language a posture and an identity.

BAHAWALPUR STATE: PROVINCE AND EMERGENCE INTO ONE-UNIT

The State Bahawalpur which is the core focal point of this study was awarded a status of province in post-colonial time after the emergence of Pakistan on the oriental horizon. Even there were elections conducted and managed by the Nawab of Bahawalpur upon whom a title of the governor was conferred upon. The Bahawalpur was Saraiki dominant state where Saraiki was in vogue and in fashion. Even matters in the lower courts of the Nawab were heard in Saraiki for the facility of the locals. Right after few months of the state becoming a province, the whole west Pakistan which became a single administrative unit sucked up all the states of West Pakistan along with Bahawalpur. This action was condemned and criticized by all and was regarded as undemocratic and against the tenets of the constitution. Because there was a huge fissure and unrest amongst the leaders and masses alike so a new constitution was created in 1956 which gave the new units of Pakistan the name of East and West and devised tools for the control. The new constitution was created to shun the widespread notion disparity in East Pakistan on the coast of West Pakistan and satiate their demands for the equal share of powers by creating equilibrium in the administrative division, but it proved fatal and caused only the damage. Apparently, this seemed to favor the equality but it suppressed the voices of Bengalis in the legislative assemblies because prior to the one unit they were in the majority and the one unit instrument cut their huge share.
Palace of the Nawab Noor Mahal

RESPONSE OF BAHAWALPUR AND OTHER PROVINCES REGARDING ONE-UNIT

From the very first day of the one-unit, Sindhis, Balochis and Pashtoons launched mass movements against it and demanded the restoration of their previous status because Bahawalpur was a comparatively smaller area so it was neglected and ignored deliberately. A union by the name of Anti-one-unit-front was formed to oppose the one-unit scheme which included its members from all the provinces, Riaz Hashmi was a member of the union and he represented the former Bahawalpur province. General Ayub Khan imprisoned the members of that union and almost all of them without distinction faced solitary confinements due to sticking to the cause of provincial restoration movements. Fazal-E-Akbar was made head of a commission for the decision of the fate of one-unit because there was a growing demand for the dissolution of one-unit in West Pakistan. Prior to the imposition of martial law of General Ayub Khan, the assembly demanded the dismemberment of one-unit and demanded that there should be four or more provinces in the West-Pakistan.
The fourth province in the demand for restoration was Bahawalpur, the demand that was put against Fazal-E-Akbar was that Dera-Ghazi Khan and Multan must be included in the fourth province and Balochistan be made a fifth province. The Fazal-E-Haqq took so much time that many indecisive years passed by and he went across all the country collecting evidence and knowing the will of the people whether the people of the provinces were happy or not.
Palace of the Nawab, Noor Mahal

DISMEMBERMENT OF ONE-UNIT

The report on the dismemberment that was compiled by Fazal-E-Haqq came in public in 1970. By that time Yahya Khan had assumed the powers and handled the reigns. It is believed that the bureaucracy hindered the restoration of Bahawalpur as a Province and merged it into Punjab by neglecting the importance of the area and ignoring the favors of the Nawabs and the dwellers of the State.
The Fazal-E-Haqq committee proposed that the boundaries of new provinces should be demarcated on the Ethno lingual basis. That demarcation could only guaranty the solidarity of the country and there will never prevail a sense of disparity or inferiority amongst the ignored factions of the ethno-lingual groups. But the division and creation of all the West Pakistani provinces displayed the ineptness and incompetence of the bureaucracy and politicians alike because the ethnic factions such as Baloch and Pashtoons were disregarded in Balochistan like that of Bahwalpuris in the State. Also, the Hazaras, Pashtoons and other factions were ignored in N.W.F.P. The feud in Balochistan in the form of Balochis and Pashtoons persisted since that decision and has not been resolved until the 18th amendment.

RESPONSE OF BAHAWALPURIS

When the sentiments of the dwellers of Bahawalpur were not respected duly they launched a mass movement against the government and massive protests against the government started in 1970. On April 4th a clandestine operation was initiated by the government crushing, confining, imprisoning, and torturing the politicians and the protesters alike. The government crushed the protests iron-handedly and the protests that could have turned the events into favorable circumstances could never get such a momentum again. If there had been police involved in crushing the protests the result could have been sanguine but the government cunningly used the intelligence agencies of the state as a tool for the protesters.
Flag of the State Bahawalpur

ROLE OF RIAZ HASHMI IN PROVINCIAL RESTORATION MOVEMENT

Riaz Hashmi, the local politician from Bahawalpur who represented the state in anti-one-unit-alliance moved a petition in the supreme court of Pakistan against the decision of the government. He stated in the petition that the government was bound to restore the provincial status of the State because the other provinces were restored intact but Bahawalpur malignantly was merged into Punjab as an administrative division. The protesters in the leadership Riaz Hashmi went a step forward and claimed that the establishment of Pakistan and the Bureaucracy in the Capital betrayed the benefactor of Pakistan by not granting the State its due status which was its primary right and they said that they are not asking for something new rather they demanded the position that was prior to the one-unit was being enjoyed by the state. He also added that the Quaid-E-Azam had promised the Nawab the last ruler of the State that any future federation will never violate the right of the State and the State will always be granted a status of province.
The petition which was filed by Mr. Riaz Hashmi for the restoration of the provincial status of Bahawalpur to the Supreme Court was deliberately dismissed in an ignoring manner. The dismissal of the petition was on the ground that Mr. Hashmi had no right of filing the petition because he is in no way affected by the decision and he does not have a locus-standi to even file the petition.
Dejected and despondent Hashmi after the dismissal of his petition wrote a book in which he rhetorically argues and defended the case of Bahawalpur and published all the letters through which the Nawab of Bahawalpur asked for the guaranty of Quaid for the safeguard and protection of the Status Bahawalpur as province. The agreements, resolutions, communications, letters and the guarantees, everything is part of the book and Mr. Hashmi defended the case with a pragmatic approach and historical evidence.
In the primary chapters of the book, the author warns the authorities that if the Status of the Bahawalpur is not restored according to the accords between Nawab and Quaid then the entire Saraiki Region will fight for the greater Saraikistan Province. It should be noted that the term Saraikistan was coined first ever by Mr. Hashmi. The back of the book is adorned by the map of the proposition of Saraiki Belt with the Map of proposed Saraikistan Province.
After publishing his book, Mr. Hashmi joined the movement of Taaj M. Langaah. The joining of this movement of Mr. Langaah by Mr. Hashmi blew a new spirit in the movement and the party. It should be kept in mind that the demand of an autonomous Bahawalpur region from that of the Saraiki belt got impetus in the recent past when some prominent and leading political parties veered the demand for restoration of the status of Bahawalpur province.

CONCLUSION: 18TH AMENDMENT AND THE CALL FOR RESTORATION OF THE PROVINCIAL STATUS

18th Amendment in the Constitution granted maximum powers to parliament and judiciary and limited the powers of the president of Pakistan. This amendment gave much more authority to the prime minister and parliament than before. It also amended the laws passed by Musharraf regime the main thing it did that it removed the two-term condition of the prime minister’s serving which later helped the PML (N) and it terminated the role of PM for the appointment of judges. It created a fair balance of power between federal and provincial governments. The better achievement according to some researchers it granting a name to a province which previously had no name N.W.F.P to KPK. Prior to this amendment Pashtoon always complained that the name of their province does not accord with their identity like Punjab to Punjabis, Balochistan, and Sindh. The name of the province should depict the ethnicity that is in majority in the province.

POSITION OF THE RESTORATION MOVEMENT AFTER 18TH AMENDMENT

It is inevitable in the light of the above argument that the whole restoration movement be sought through the glasses and focal point of 18th amendment in the constitution of Pakistan. As it was expected that the promulgation of the 18th amendment will ease the restoration process and it will help the government in opting a simpler tool for the granting the maximum authorities to the provinces but what happened after the amendment was unexpected.
One good that happened after the 18th amendment is that the restoration-demand has gotten currency in every circle. Political parties concerned, the parliament floor or intelligentsia the issue is catching everyone’s attention in recent days. Moreover, for the first time ever, everyone realized that the Saraiki is not in any way the Punjabi dialect. It is a unique vernacular, having its own accent, vocabulary, and historical background.
Regarding the lurking predicament of the provincial restoration movement, the 18th amendment has gotten a mixed responses from the authorities and the parties concerned. It divided the parties concerned in the Saraiki belt in two camps the first faction deems it a ripe time for the fulfillment of their goal and believes that the dream of provincial realization or at least the restoration of the Bahawalpur on its former status is near. The second camp believes that the amendment is conducive to nothing in Bahawalpur areas and has done nothing so far so forth in the restoration movement.

RESPONSE OF POLITICAL PARTIES AFTER 18TH AMENDMENT

PPP has had the premier Yousaf Raza Gilani from this area but he did nothing for the promotion and up-gradation of the Saraiki area. In Jalaalpur (a district of Multan in Saraiki Belt) in PPP’s tenure, he said for mere point-scoring that the next time when the PPP will get popular mandate the party’s the manifesto will be the creation of smaller provinces and it will also pay to shun off the reservations of the Saraikis duly.
Saraiki National Party responded to the allurement of PPP with indifference stating that PPP is only point-scoring and tingling the PML (N), the Saraiki province is not on the agenda of either of them, both of them are concerned with the upcoming elections and by point out the Saraiki Issue they only want to secure maximum votes in this region.
On 9th May 2012, the Punjab assembly passed two resolutions one for Southern Punjab and the second for the restoration of the provincial status of Bahawalpur. Both the resolutions were passed by the law minister Rana Sanaullah but to avail because later it was proved that those resolutions were retaliatory ones and were for the mere point-scoring.
On 30th June 2015, the VP of PTI Shah Mahmood Qureishi addressed a public meeting in Multan and declared with a solemn resolve that the PTI will support the provincial issue of Bahawalpur. It must be kept in mind that PTI supports the whole Saraikistan region and does not agree with the exception of the Bahawalpur provincial restoration movement.
In the recent past, during the days of the PPP and 2013 elections the area caught little importance, even the PPP government had made a committee for the amendment in the constitution for Saraiki province but there was disagreement amongst the indigenous politicians. Bahawalpur is demanded that they do not want to join the Multan or the Saraiki Belt and they only want the restoration of the old status and nothing less than a Bahawalpur Province.

PROPOSITIONS

  1. All the parties whether it be provincial restoration movements or seeking Saraiki provincial status should join the smaller parties for the opposition alliance. Political parties from the little representation can be joined such as ANP, MQM and JUI F.
  2. Politicians should also join the sit-ins of PTI and PAT like Baba Haider Zamaan for the promotion of their demands.
  3. Politicians of the region should come into the limelight of the media campaigns in joining every opposition party for the achievement of their goal.
  4. There should be uniformity in the demand of the locals.

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