LAHORE: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s nomination of Sardar Usman Ahmad Khan Buzdar from D.G. Khan as Punjab chief minister has drawn a strong reaction within the party as many leaders express their displeasure over Imran Khan’s decision of choosing a candidate from among the new entrants in the party.

Speaking to Dawn, many PTI leaders said they would accept the party chairman’s decision and follow the decisions in letter and spirit but the chief minister candidate’s choice had not been received well. They regret that the party chairman fails to consider the sacrifices rendered by party’s all-time loyal workers who stood by him on every occasion such as protests, rallies, public meetings and the 126-day sit-in in Islamabad.

The chairman also did not consider any of the party’s former legislator in the Punjab Assembly, who stood against odds in the province ruled by Shahbaz Sharif-led PML-N government.

“Where are the party claims that only a stalwart will be the Punjab chief minister,” questioned a party leader.

The party leaders said Usman Buzdar could not be a unanimous candidate as he belonged to Jahangir Khan Tareen bloc in the party and had affiliation with the PML-Q during Gen Pervez Musharraf’s rule in the country.

Others said Buzdar would be a weak chief minister in the presence of Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi and there would be a tug-of-war between the Speaker-Chief Minister and the Governor House if Chaudhry Sarwar agrees to take oath of the Punjab governor even now.

“I doubt that Chaudhry Sarwar will take oath as Punjab governor in the current situation,” said one of them.

However, another party legislator claimed that Chaudhry Sarwar as Punjab governor would assert and supervise Punjab’s affair. Rejecting that Jahangir Tareen and Pervaiz Elahi lobby would be able to corner Chaudhry Sarwar as governor, the legislator said “they will remain cut to size and in case try to cross limits, there will be lot of problems ahead.”

He also said, “everybody will stay restricted to his mandate while performing on different positions in the government.”

With reference to Pervaiz Elahi, a party leader said the Speaker would be happy with any weak chief minister in Punjab. He said Mr Elahi would get stronger if he would be able to get Punjab law minister’s slot for his trusted lieutenant Raja Basharat. Sources say Mr Basharat joined the PTI with due consent from Pervaiz Elahi.

The PTI circles also see Buzdar’s candidature as a ploy to close down the chapter of creating south Punjab province. The PTI had endorsed the demand for creation of south Punjab province in a bid to woo the electables from south Punjab – who had formed Junoobi Punjab Sooba Mahaz (JPSM) on the sole agenda of creation of a new “south Punjab” province.

The JPSM comprising disgruntled PML-N MNAs and MPAs, under the leadership of Khusro Bakhtiar, had parted with the PML-N only a month before the 2018 general election and joined the PTI. Usman Buzdar was part of the JPSM.

In the maiden oath-taking session of the Punjab Assembly on Wednesday, PTI MPA Mohsin Leghari from PP-293 (Rajanpur I) had submitted a resolution reminding his party of its commitment to create south Punjab province. The resolution stated: “The house strongly recommends to the federal government to initiate the process of creation of southern Punjab province immediately.”

The next day, PPP MPA Makhdoom Syed Usman Mahmood from PP-264 (Rahim Yar Khan X) had submitted another resolution to endorse the creation of south Punjab province. The resolution stated: “The Punjab Assembly demand from the federal government to fulfill its promise and create the south Punjab province. In order to establish the new province, the PPP will stand by the PTI government.”

Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2018