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December 5, 2018

Why Imran picked Buzdar?

Top Story

December 5, 2018

Is the Chief Minister Usman Buzdar an asset for the Prime Minister Imran Khan and the PTI or has become a liability.

One thing is certain and that is clearly from the way Kaptaan defended him on every occasion that the man from Southern Punjab is here to stay as long as government is there.

The premier tried his best to defend his most controversial political choice during a panel interview Monday with six anchors but none among those present looked convinced with him and it ended on a lighter note. If one ‘U-turn’ which perhaps the PM will never take come what may is on this Sardar from Rajanpur.

Interestingly, Buzdar was never the first choice for the CM slot but now PM wants his party and allies to support him while facing a serious dilemma as in 100 days he has failed in making any impact. More controversies revolved around him particularly in handling of police and administration with frequent changes.

Now in a bid to show his confidence on Buzdar, the Punjab government on the directive of the prime minister will celebrate 100-day of Buzdar and a grand function will be held on December 10, in which PM will be the chief guest. Provincial government in a bid to show its success stories in the first quarters are busy compiling what Buzdar’s government has done in its first quarter.

So the PTI is all out to back Buzdar and to lift his image and perception. So it will be interesting to watch how strong his case would be fought by the PM and his team. Imran, from the day he had picked him as the chief executive of the biggest province dominated by his arch political rival Sharifs, for almost 25 years, had given three main reasons for his choice for Buzdar. (1) He is honest; (2) he is from the remote area of Southern Punjab. The PTI’s internal conflict and grouping also pushed Imran to pick him as he doesn’t belong to any group nor has the capacity to create his own group, sources said.

What he has ignored is the fact that by bringing a weak person as a chief minister and strong men on his right and left like speaker Punjab Assembly and Punjab governor; he made Buzdar further weak as the man lack assertiveness and charisma as well. So the PTI’s internal grouping is very much intact and each one of them using him. It is for this very reason that Imran has to visit Lahore more regularly than KP or other provinces to push him to follow his directives. Imran has also picked Buzdar as a reaction to party’s failure in reaching consensus on far more experienced people who could have been more useful in handling the PML- N and Punjab police and administration. Now Imran has even dropped police and civil service reforms to make his CM more powerful at least for the time being.

While defending his choice, PM in the past had also cited example that Buzdar is such a poor man that there is no electricity in his home and village. Now they have and certainly it’s good news for the village and hopefully would be included in the document which reportedly will be released on December 10 or even before. Buzdar was not a stranger to politics and he had even remained the district nazim of his area and also remained associated with the PML-Q. I am not sure whether the PM had looked into his performance as nazim before picking him.

If the man has so much quality as defined and described by the PM, why he was not his first choice prior to the elections and even after polls. Why his name was never put forward by the PTI Punjab or central leadership. Importantly, who suggested his name and why?

Following names were in PM’s mind prior to July 25 elections and Buzdar name was not there. Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Jehangir Tareen, Aleem Khan and Ch Sarwar. Later, the name of Fawad Chaudhry also figured and included in the list. Former chief minister Pervaiz Elahi could have been the automatic choice had PML-Q merged with the PTI, rather keeping party identity intact. Disqualification of Jehangir Tareen by the Supreme Court and later rejection of his appeal was dropped like a ‘bombshell’ on Imran. The decision badly damaged his whole political strategy particularly in Punjab.

JT himself could not believed what had happened but left with no other choice but to use his political clout from outside and try to bring his man as chief minister. The second best choice for prime minister was Shah Mehmood Qureshi despite opposition from JT & Co. SMQ, who was contesting from both National and Punjab Assembly seats won comfortably his NA seat, but surprisingly lost provincial assembly seat. While SMQ is tight-lipped over the defeat, circles close to him did not rule out the possibility of party’s internal factors behind the defeat.

The third choice for the slot was Aleem Khan, the most energetic PTI leader from Lahore and the one liked by Imran. But he could not get the clean chit from the NAB, which forced the PM to drop his name.

Sitting Governor Ch Sarwar initially was a strong candidate not only because he has some experience of Punjab politics but is also an Arian, the strongest cast in Punjab along with Kashmiri.

However, he too could not impressed the PM as the first or the second choice for the slot for the same reason ie opposition from within. Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry became a strong choice after other names were dropped for one reason or the other. But Tareen and Asad Umar reportedly opposed his name.

Sources said the PML-Q leader and Punjab Assembly Speaker Pervaiz Elahi assured the premier that his party would continue its support to Buzdar. It was revealed that Imran has asked Chaudhrys of Gujrat to help him as he was not very sure of support from some of his own party leaders in Punjab.

So at present the Punjab power centre stands divided between PM House, Governor’s House, Speaker’s House and the weakest apparently is the Punjab CM House.

Even if Chief Minister Usman Buzdar could not assert himself despite getting complete support from PM and federal government in the next one or two years particularly in the local bodies elections, the prime minister may face pressure from the party to review his decision. But if the party manages to win local bodies elections and manage to perform well, it could help Imran in handling party’s internal differences.

The writer is a senior columnist and analyst of Geo, The News and Jang

Twitter: @MazharAbbasGEO

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