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January 28, 2020

Taping over cracks


January 28, 2020

The PTI government and PM Imran Khan have been trying their best to underplay cracks in the provincial governments that they lead. On Sunday, Imran Khan categorically ruled out any possibility of the removal of Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, and said that he would not be blackmailed by anyone. For days, there have been complaints that other alliance partners including the PML-Q were deeply dissatisfied with Buzdar, and with nepotism in the province, and that to try and improve working in the country’s biggest federating unit, the centre had decided to run its affairs from Islamabad rather than allow Buzdar to fumble his way along the path. While the prime minister may be determined to defend Buzdar, even when there is no apparent need to speak up, the unease in Punjab is set to continue, with some members of the PTI also unhappy with Buzdar and with how Punjab is being managed.

In other provinces, things have reached a more critical stage. On the same day, three Khyber Pakhtunkhwa ministers were sacked for not following cabinet decisions and creating difficulties in the running of the province. The ministers, who had developed differences with KP Chief Minister Mehmood Khan, and have consequently lost their posts, were Health Minister Shahram Khan Tarakai, Sports Minister Muhammad Atif Khan and Revenue and Estate Minister Shakeel Ahmed. Tarakai and Atif Khan are related to each other while Shakeel Khan was seen in the province as a possible replacement for Mehmood Khan who has drawn criticism from many quarters, again from those within the party as well. PTI members had expected Imran Khan would call both parties and hear their points of view, but only Mehmood Khan was called and seemed able to turn things away from the three men whom he accuses of playing a negative role in the province. It is unlikely that this method of determining matters on whim or going by the words of a single person will endear Imran to members of his own party or build his status as a leader. While Defence Minister Pervez Khattak has said that a conspiracy against the KP government has been foiled, others suggest the government has been weakened with the exit of three of its more capable members.

Khattak also insists problems in Balochistan will be sorted out. There is growing unrest within the complicated alliance ruling that province. The issue is almost the same in Balochistan. Speaker of the Balochistan Assembly Abdul Quddus Bizenjo had called for the resignation of Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Alyani. He had also claimed to have the support of other MPAs to unseat the chief minister. The allegations against the Balochistan CM are nearly the same: he has been unable to deliver, and the level of corruption is rising. Though Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani has said that these have been taped over and that Kamal would stay in power, we wonder if the tape will remain in place for very long. The problems in all these provinces will undoubtedly keep the PM and his team busy. There is a risk that the cracks already present could widen and each of the governments jeopardized, particularly in Punjab which is kept propped up by only a very narrow majority.

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