Lahore, Apr 9 (PTI) Eight lawmakers of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party today parted ways with it and announced the launch of a mass movement to make South Punjab a separate province, in a fresh blow to the ruling party.

“Making south Punjab a separate province is our one-point agenda,” Khusro Bakhtiar, a member of the National Assembly, said while addressing a press conference here along with other disgruntled PML-N leaders.

Announcing their decision, the dissidents said time has come to make South Punjab a separate province. They said they enjoyed the support of nearly 15 more lawmakers of the national and provincial assemblies.

Bakhatiar said that the party enjoyed mandate of the people of the region and that it should be respected. According to them, the poverty ratio in the area has touched a starling 51 per cent.

Apart from Bakhtiar, the other rebel lawmakers are Alam Dar Laleka, Basit Bukhari, Syed Asghar Ali Shah, Nasrullah Dareshak and Rana Qasim Noon, Express News reported.

Bakhtiar said they would start the ‘South Punjab Front’ movement.

“The size of South Punjab is almost the same as Khyber Pashtunkhawa. We have 46 MNAs in the [National] Assembly at the moment and yet they gave us just one seat in the Senate.” Bakhtiar explained: “New provincial demarcations are the need of the time. We are not here to start a rift time has made the need for new provinces very apparent.” “The demarcation of new provinces will ensure that funds allocated for Rajanpur are not given to Multan,” he said, adding that “All we want is equality amongst the regions.” Bakhtiar said that the South Punjab Front will take its message to the people through the media, schools and people to people contact.

“It is natural that all of us want that each district flourishes, has better law and order, and a better education system. For these things to be achieved, we need more provinces,” he said.

Speaking of the movement’s direction, Bakhtiar said, “We are ready for dialogue with any party.” Our goal is simple: when the new assemblies take oath, the legislation for a new province should be passed within the first session. If that does not happen, we will go to the Supreme Court,” he said.

The lawmakers said their alliance will be led by former interim prime minister Balakh Sher Mazari and Sardar Dareshak will be the co-chairman of the alliance.

The PML-N party has been facing difficult times since July last year when its supremo Nawaz Sharif was disqualified as Pakistan’s prime minister by the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers case. In February this year, the top court also disqualified Sharif from heading the PML-N party as its president.

Pakistan has four provinces, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan. Punjab is Pakistan’s second largest province by area, after Balochistan.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.