The estranged PML-N lawmakers who had formed the Junoobi Punjab Suba Mahaz (JPSM) a month ago officially merged into the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) on Wednesday and will now contest the 2018 general elections under the PTI banner.

The two parties had reached an agreement a day earlier and made their merger official at a press conference in Islamabad.

JPSM president Khusro Bakhtiar said that the merger was made possible after the PTI included the formation of a new province in south Punjab to their election manifesto. Under the deal, the PTI is to set in motion the procedures to create a new province in south Punjab within 100 days if it forms the next government.

“We had presented our case in front of Pakistan just a month ago,” said Bakhtiar. “In just this one month, the party that will be the creator of a new Pakistan, has not only added our demand for a separate province in south Punjab to its manifesto but also promised the same — not to us but to the people of Pakistan.”

Bakhtiar again highlighted the importance for a separate province, saying that doing so is imperative for “Pakistan’s internal cohesion” and that it would help the country emerge as a powerful nation.

In a reference to the PML-N, he said that the party that has been ruling Punjab for the last 30-35 years kept south Punjab with itself not for the sake of federation but just to keep on the ruling.

“It’s the decision of the people of southern Punjab that they don’t want to live this life of subjugation,” he added.

PTI Chairman Imran Khan, after welcoming Bakhtiar and the rest of the JPSM leaders into his party, explained that agreeing to the formation of a new province “is not a political decision but [his] conviction”.

“Others before me may have made the same promise but I strongly believe that a federation gets stronger only when the federating units are happy to be a part of the nation,” he said. “I believe that administering big units is very difficult.”

“Lahore is my city; I should be happy that 53 or 55 per cent of Punjab’s budget is being spent there but as a Pakistani I can tell you that this is damaging Pakistan,” Khan said before adding that the practice promotes inferiority complex.

The PTI chief said that if his party comes into power he would expedite both the south Punjab province as well as Fata’s merger into the KP.

“We commit that, even though it won’t be easy, this will be our cause and we will expedite this — not just this but Fata’s merger into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa too,” he said.

When asked why does he want to split Punjab into two but merge Fata into the KP, Khan said:

“Fata’s issue is that its system has been demolished due to the war on terrorism. They neither have an old system nor a new one. The people there never wanted to join KP but they’ve sort of become orphans now so a merger with the KP is their demand now.”