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April 7, 2021

Buzdar’s boat in choppy waters again, claims minister

Top Story

April 7, 2021

ISLAMABAD: A cabinet member, considered to be close to Prime Minister Imran Khan, claims that Usman Buzdar has been given a final warning to deliver or face the music.

The cabinet source confided to The News that Imran Khan has now put the Punjab chief minister on notice and given him just a few more months to perform. When asked if he has started performing, the source smiled and said, “it’s a capacity issue”.

In recent weeks, the chief minister has appeared quite active in issuing political statements to newspapers besides addressing press conferences about his government’s ‘achievements’. However, the cabinet source said that everyone important in the government and in the PTI --except for the prime minister-- believes that Buzdar has been entrusted with a responsibility that is far beyond what he is capable of.

“Even if you ask a peon of the Prime Minister Office, he will tell you that Buzdar is the wrong choice,” said the source. He disclosed that the Punjab chief minister faces a really tough time when he meets the prime minister, who is now virtually the lone supporter of the chief minister in the party.

This correspondent was also informed by the cabinet source that according to their information, the top PML-N leadership has barred party leaders from criticising Usman Buzdar. “They (the PMLN leadership) know that as long as Buzdar rules Punjab, it will benefit the N-League and keep on denting the PTI,” the source said.

The source added that even the establishment is not happy with Khan’s choice of the Punjab chief minister. In the past, the prime minister has been directly conveyed ‘their’ dissatisfaction, but Imran Khan was of the view that if Buzdar is removed who else could be trusted as his replacement.

The source said that the premier does not want either Aleem Khan or Mian Aslam Iqbal to be offered the top political slot in the province. While the cabinet source, like most PTI leaders, does not approve of Buzdar, he shares the prime minister’s view about the dearth of available choices among PTI MPAs.

When reminded that there have been frequent reports in the past about the possible removal of Usman Buzdar that all proved wrong when Imran Khan offered his support to Buzdar publicly, the source said that this time Buzdar has been given a final warning and he has till the budget session to perform.

Following this last warning, the source said, Buzdar has become much more active, at least in the media. Last week, the chief minister held a press conference claiming that his government has retrieved 15,500 acres of land worth Rs 450 billion from encroachers. He said that it was the largest operation in the history of the province and the drive would be taken to its logical end.

The CM said a similar indiscriminate action was also under way against the sugar and price-hike mafias. Buzdar also highlighted what his government is doing to check the spread of Covid-19.

Meanwhile, an official of the Punjab government said that there was no such development as the chief minister is working confidently for the betterment of the people of the province. He said that such gossip is not new as people have been spreading rumours for the last two years.

The Buzdar government is often criticised for its poor governance and repeated transfers of civil servants both in the secretariat and in the field. Punjab has never seen the level of political interference in bureaucratic affairs that has become the norm under Buzdar.

The chief minister is also said not to be in full control of affairs in the province. Of late, the notification for the withdrawal of the South Punjab Secretariat became a huge embarrassment for Buzdar who had to cancel the notification without explaining how it was issued. PTI leaders from South Punjab, including foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, were deeply upset over the mishandling of the administrative affairs of their region.