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Buzdar faces challenge of becoming an effective CM

September 23, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar is a simple man, who admits that he lacks administrative experience but assures his visitors that he would improve with every passing day. Background interactions with those who are closely watching Buzdar, the Punjab chief minister has become extra careful after the Pakpattan DPO episode which has seriously jolted his government as well as the ruling PTI within days of their coming into power. “There is now hardly any political interference on part of the chief minister and his secretariat,” a source said, adding that now the standard procedure is to convey to officials concerned to go by law, rules and policy in case anyone including PTI MPs approach the CM for any “safarish” (favour).

Buzdar, according to source who recently met him, is a simple man. The source said that the CM admitted before him that he does not have administrative experience but explained that he seeks the cooperation of his political colleagues and members of the civil bureaucracy to deliver as per the expectations of the people.

Buzdar, it is said and confirmed even by sources in the civil bureaucracy, has chosen a good seasoned and well-spoken secretary - Dr Raheel Siddiqui- to head his secretariat. Siddiqi belongs to Bahawalpur and understands south Punjab culture, administration and politics well.

He has also been political agent in DG Khan tribal area. Test, however, will be if the secretary is given space and authority by outsiders to serve the chief minister independently.

Buzdar may improve and surprise all his critics as per the expectations of Prime Minster Imran Khan, a source said, adding, “But right now he seems to be a real life manifestation of ages old saying ‘man is born free, but everywhere in chains’.

If Shahbaz Sharif was known as a strong chief minister for having tight control over everything under his rule in Punjab, his successor Usman Buzdar has yet to show any sign of leadership quality in the absence of which others appear to be overlapping his domain.

Quite a few decisions of absolute provincial jurisdiction as per constitution and law are being decided by the federal authorities including prime minister and his cabinet members.

For example, in issues like the local government system, audit of metros of Lahore, Multan and Rawalpindi built by provincial resources, and use of provincial controlled houses, decisions should have been taken by the provincial cabinet instead of the federal authorities.

Informed sources said that Chief Minister Buzdar on every visit to Islamabad always meets a PTI high official.

The grand 90 Shahrah-e-Quaid-i-Azam, Lahore- opposite provincial assembly- which was CM office used for formal events because of its grandeur and history, has been taken over by Aleem Khan, the senior minister of Punjab, the sources said. 90 Sharah-e-Quaid-i-Àzam had hosted Hillary Clinton, and many other foreign dignitaries.

As against the chief minister, Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar is looking more active in the province. Even in view of some PTI MPs, Sarwar will informally look after many jobs which otherwise fall in the domain of the chief minister.

According to an official source, who had worked with Shahbaz Sharif and is also closely monitoring Buzdar, when asked about the difference between the two, he said, “There is no comparison between the two.”

The official source said that Shahbaz Sharif’s day used to start at 6:00am and ended at 11:00pm or 12:00pm. Buzdar starts at around 10:00am and hardly does anything after 5:00pm. No video conference, no dengue meeting so far under Buzdar.

Sources said that the cabinet meetings so far held in Punjab under Buzdar were also mostly dominated by Raja Basharat of PML-Q, Mahmoodul Rasheed and Aleem Khan.

Many see it as the evolution from strongest chief minister of Punjab Shahbaz Sharif to weakest Punjab CM Buzdar, there are some who seeks some time for Buzdar to show his performance. Judging Buzdar so early is unfair, a source said.

Shahbaz Sharif, the source said would have almost daily meetings on different issues with all district officers through video conference. Shahbaz had a DS (deputy secretary) monitoring every division, he had secretary for law and order, secretary for implementation, secretary for CPEC monitoring, secretary coordination for parliamentary business and the principal secretary on top in the CM Secretariat. Buzdar has only one secretary.

Shahbaz Sharif with such a top heavy CM Secretariat used to control the entire province with the help of bureaucracy and for the same reason he was alleged of centralising all the authority to himself, leaving little space for others including his cabinet ministers to work freely.