Islamabad: In a major setback to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), as many as eight of its lawmakers, including six MNAs and two MPAs, parted ways with the party Monday, announcing the launch of a movement to make southern Punjab a separate province.

Addressing a joint press conference, the six members of the National Assembly and two provincial assembly lawmakers announced they were leaving the PML-N and had formed a new political party.

“The purpose of the press conference is to announce the movement Junoobi Punjab Suba Mahaaz [South Punjab Province Front] to create a new province,” the former MNA Khusro Bakhtiar said addressing in a press conference in Lahore with like-minded leaders.

“Making south Punjab a separate province is our one-point agenda,” said Bakhtiar, who is a member of the National Assembly from a PML-N seat. The new province demand is “for the security of the future of the children of South Punjab.”

The dissidents, including former state minister Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar, Alam Dar Laleka, Basit Bukhari, Rana Muhammad Qasim, Syed Asghar Ali Shah, Nasrullah Dareshak, Tahir Iqbal, Sardar Dareshak, Salimullah Chaudhry and Tahir Bashir also announced plans to launch a campaign to make South Punjab a separate province.

‘Support of 15 more’

They accused the ruling party of ignoring South Punjab. They said they enjoyed the support of nearly 15 more lawmakers of the national and provincial assemblies.

Khusro Bakhtiar announced that former prime minister Balakh Sher Mazari would lead the movement for separate province.

Mazari would be chairman of the South Punjab Province Mahaaz, while Sardar Nasrullah Dareshak would be vice-chairman, he said.

Khusro would be president and Basit Bukhari would be vice-president of the movement.

He said the purpose their presser was to strengthen the federation and the announcement of separate province.

“The size of South Punjab is almost the same as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, we have 46 MNAs in the assembly at the moment and yet, they barely give us one seat in the Senate,” he said.