Chief Minister Punjab Usman Buzdar is facing tough challenge not from opposition parties but from his own party colleagues. He is facing tough opposition from powerful lobbies within PTI despite serving as CM Punjab for more than 17 months. He has failed to appease his opponents within PTI.
Talk of replacing the Punjab’s chief executive is becoming louder even within the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) due to the rising concern over Chief Minister Usman Buzdar’s ‘failure’ in handling the affairs of the most important province. The poor and ineffective governance has become major reason of growing opposition to CM Buzdar.
PTI leaders are worried that if the situation remains the same before the local government elections in 2020 then the party will face likely defeat. They are worried about development work- price hike and unemployment.
He was in deep trouble in January 2020 but PM Imran Khan came to his rescue. He once again throws his weight behind CM Buzdar and refused to replace him. Despite the continued support from PM Imran Khan-the opponents of Usman Buzdar are not ready to accept him. So the power struggle is still on within PTI.
The one reason of this opposition is that many within PTI consider him an outsider. The little known Sardar from Barthi-tehsil Taunsa Sharif and district Dera Ghazi Khan was a non-entity before the July 25 general elections. He joined the PTI just couple of months before the general elections. He was in PML-N and expected to run for provincial assembly seat on PML-N ticket. He had contested and lost the 2013 election for a provincial seat on a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) ticket. He was in the PML-Q and elected as Tehsil Nazim Taunsa Shareef.
When Imran Khan picked him as CM Punjab after the July 25-2018 elections-it was a big surprise for many powerful potential candidates within PTI. Jahangir Tareen was disqualified to hold public office by Supreme Court. Shah Mehmood Qureshi lost the provincial assembly seat while winning the national assembly seat.
Aleem Khan was another strong contender for CM but NAB opened inquiries against him. There were some other contenders but Imran Khan preferred Buzdar and ignored the powerful lobbies within PTI. This decision did not go well with many in the PTI. This decision dejected many in the PTI.
The opposition over Buzdar’s selection was so clear within the party that Imran Khan had to take to twitter the morning after taking his oath. “I want to make it clear [that] I stand by our nominee Usman Buzdar for Chief Minister Punjab. I have done my due diligence over the past two weeks and have found him to be an honest man,” he tweeted, defending his decision. “He has integrity and stands by my vision and ideology of Naya Pakistan.”
Many scoff at the idea that Imran Khan selected Buzdar for the position solely because he was from an underdeveloped region that did not have electricity, water and a hospital. A PTI MPA from Lahore points out that the region did not have these facilities “in spite of the fact that [Buzdar’s] father had been in active politics since the early 1980s and was thrice returned to the provincial assembly between 1985 and 2002.” “Did you or anyone else know his father or the man himself before he was nominated as chief minister?”
The man we were ordered to elect as the Leader of the House had made it to the provincial assembly for the first time and had no prior administrative experience to handle the Punjabi bureaucracy. Who would entrust such a man with such a huge responsibility of running the country’s most populous and politically most important province?” he asks. “We thought he may be a good man but he was not the right person for the job he had been given. Time has proved us right,” he further elaborated.
When contacted a senior leader of PTI from Lahore said that many within the PTI parliamentary party are not satisfied with the performance of CM Punjab. Majority wants to replace him but question is who will replace him? We want a better administrator and active political figure as CM Punjab but problem is how to replace him?
He said that we understand the situation as we know “there are a number of pressure groups within the party itself and ambitions of the allies [the PML-Q] are no more hidden, there seems no way out to bring the desired change.”
PTI leader said there were various groups of party leaders like ex-secretary general Jahangir Khan Tareen, Punjab governor Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar, former provincial minister Abdul Aleem Khan and Punjab Information Minister Mian Aslam Iqbal.
Another PTI leader said the issue had been raised in top party circles a couple of times. But, he added, such meetings and discussions were chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan just to have a feeling of the undercurrents in the party cadre but not for taking decisions. “The decisions are taken solely by Imran Khan whether these are discussed in the core committee or central executive committee or not.”
One political commentator and analyst after another and one columnist after another has predicted Buzdar’s imminent downfall. His own party colleagues are not happy with him and consider him an ineffective manager, ill-equipped to handle the Punjabi bureaucracy the way Sharif did. They also complain that he does not listen to legitimate complaints of his party’s legislators, let alone redress them.
Most political analysts agree that the latest ‘political crisis’ in Punjab was mainly linked to factional fighting within the government and PTI, as well as to the popular perceptions about Buzdar’s incompetence. Buzdar’s troubles are either linked to factional infighting within the government or they can be due to his perceived ineffectiveness. Both issues can also be linked and feed into each other. In his opinion, it is clear that Buzdar’s appointment has always been an issue for the PTI government.
The attacks repeatedly mounted against Buzdar by his detractors have always focused on underscoring poor governance and ineffective administration under him. “Who needs corruption charges to bring him down?” asks one of his critics from his own party. “His incompetence and poor governance are enough to topple him whenever his opponents get the signal from the right quarters.”
In recent months, there have been signs of visible decline across the province: stalled infrastructure projects, erosion of projects, such as dengue control and garbage collection in Lahore, that were previously seen to work well. All of this, coupled with the recent wheat flour shortages and delayed actions to fight smog in the cities have harmed his image.
On top of that, crisis in the economy and growing inflation and bureaucratic slowdown in fear of NAB cases, have reinforced the idea that the current Punjab government is weak and ineffective.
The recent crisis in Punjab isn’t the last one. Such troubles for the chief minister will keep surfacing from time to time. But no one sees Buzdar going any time soon.
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17 November, 2019