Loyalty pays in politics. But that is not the only quality that has helped Senator Rafique Rajwana get his job as governor of Punjab. His party colleagues from south Punjab say his low profile in local and regional politics has greatly helped him in bagging the coveted position.
“After a bad experience with [his predecessor] Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar, the party couldn’t risk appointing an assertive governor who also had popular support,” said a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader from Multan on the condition of anonymity.
“They wanted someone loyal and who knew his limits.”
Mr Rajwana is known to have won the trust of Nawaz Sharif
in the mid-1990s when he was president of the High Court Bar Association in Multan, and was given the Senate seat vacated by Rafique Tarar after his election as president of Pakistan in 1998.
He was elected to the Senate for a second term in 2012.
“Unlike many others he stood by the Sharifs and the party during their difficult years of exile in Saudi Arabia. Today his loyalty has been rewarded by the leadership,” the PML-N leader said.
Mr Rajwana has also served as Punjab PML-N senior vice president, and vice president of the PML-N’s lawyers’ wing and acted as the legal counsel for party leaders, including Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif.
A businessman friend of the governor-designate from Rahim Yar Khan told Dawn that Mr Rajwana was a “circumspect and non-controversial” politician who, unlike his predecessor, would never transgress his constitutional authority. “But that does not mean that he would let others interfere with his authority. There’s no doubt that he is very loyal to the Sharifs, but he will not let anyone encroach upon his authority,” the businessman, who also sought anonymity, said.
Some analysts argue that the appointment of Mr Rajwana as governor will give the PML-N a big boost in south Punjab and help the party counter the growing influence of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) in the region, as well as neutralise the influence of PPP leadership in the region, especially that of former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and former Punjab governor Makhdoom Ahmed Mahmood.
“It is hard to say if he will be effective in Rahim Yar Khan and Bahawalpur, but his presence in Governor House will certainly benefit the party in and around Multan, the city he was born in, in 1949,” his businessman friend said.
Some others differ with him. “I don’t think the party leadership had this aim in mind while deciding to make him governor,” a PML-N leader from Multan said. “He has no roots in local or regional politics. If the objective were to boost the party’s fortunes in south Punjab or counter the emerging threats to its support base, the leadership would have given this job to someone who had some political influence in the region or came from an established political family.”
PML-N MNA from Multan Javed Ali Shah appreciated Mr Rajwana’s selection for the office of governor. “I don’t agree with those who say his presence in Governor House is not going to make a difference for the party in south Punjab. People grow big when given such important responsibilities. He will also grow big and develop his political clout that will be beneficial for the party in this part of the province.”
Published in Dawn, May 8th, 2015