Punjab governor told to play by the book

April 25, 2019

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Governor Chaudhry Sarwar’s role in the Punjab government affairs seems to have been curtailed to constitutional limits on the ‘desire’ of Prime Minister Imran Khan after complaints of his constant intervention in the affairs of the Usman Buzdar administration. — DawnNewsTV/File
Governor Chaudhry Sarwar’s role in the Punjab government affairs seems to have been curtailed to constitutional limits on the ‘desire’ of Prime Minister Imran Khan after complaints of his constant intervention in the affairs of the Usman Buzdar administration. — DawnNewsTV/File

LAHORE: Governor Chaudhry Sarwar’s role in the Punjab government affairs seems to have been curtailed to constitutional limits on the ‘desire’ of Prime Minister Imran Khan after complaints of his constant intervention in the affairs of the Usman Buzdar administration.

“As Jehangir Tareen, a close aide of the prime minister, and Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi have put their weight behind Chief Minister Buzdar and uneasiness of the CM has been reported to the premier over the governor’s continued meddling in the affairs of the Punjab government, Mr Khan has categorically conveyed to Mr Sarwar to only play his constitutional role,” an official source privy to the development told Dawn on Wednesday.

Mr Sarwar declared at a press conference at the Governor House that CM Buzdar was the chief executive of the province and enjoying all powers that his predecessors did.

Read: PTI parliamentary party reposes trust in Buzdar

Sarwar rejects reports about his resignation, says Buzdar to continue as CM; Pervaiz Elahi, Sheikh Rashid put their weight behind chief minister

“Rumours about my resignation must die. Everyone, including myself, is working within the constitutional limits and all of us enjoy confidence of the prime minister,” the governor said.

However, the sources said Mr Sarwar was not only interfering in transfers and postings of government officials, but also had created a lobby of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf MPAs. “Since assuming the governor’s office some eight months ago, Mr Sarwar was quite active in the affairs of the party and the government. He even succeeded in getting Amjad Saleemi of his district appointed as Punjab police chief, who has recently been removed,” the source said.

Since Mr Sarwar accompanied Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi at a press conference at the Governor House earlier this month in which the minister objected to Jahangir Tareen’s presence in official meetings despite having been disqualified by the Supreme Court, the governor had openly declared his opposition to the “powerful man” in the PTI.

After that PM Khan received complains about the growing role of Mr Sarwar in Punjab. And subsequently responsibility for failure of Punjab police under Amjad Saleemi to assist NAB in arresting Opposition Leader in the Provincial Assembly Hamza Shahbaz during a raid at his residence in money laundering investigation fell squarely on Mr Sarwar’s shoulder, the official source said.

He added that the prime minister had refused to meet Mr Sarwar after the latter’s return from the United States a few days ago and later a message was conveyed to him that he should focus on his constitutional role in the province.

Before joining the PTI, Mr Sarwar had served as Punjab governor in the previous Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government.

Governor Sarwar said at his press conference, “I have been projected as a hot-headed man who carries his resignation in his pocket. Rumours have also been caused by this image of mine painted by the media. But we have made many promises to the people of Pakistan: five million houses, 100 million jobs, clean drinking water, better health service... Running away is simply no option for us.”

Asked whether CM Buzdar was being replaced, Mr Sarwar said: “There will be no change in Punjab. CM Buzdar is the chief executive of the province and he enjoys all the power his predecessors did. However, PM Khan has powers to reshuffle his team and such rearrangement should not trigger wild speculations. I deny differences either with the chief minister, the speaker or anybody for that matter.” He said there might be difference of opinion on different issues, but they should not become fodder for rumour mills.

On the other hand, PML-Q senior leader and Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi said that his party as the government ally was strengthening CM Buzdar. “We stand with the chief minister,” he said, adding that differences did occur in a political party and this was the beauty of politics.

In reply to a question, Mr Elahi said: “We have neither contacted the N-League nor there is any possibility of it in the future.” “MNA Moonis Elahi has also made it clear that he does not feel any need or desire to meet the PML-N leadership,” Mr Elahi said.

Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid told reporters in Lahore that PM Khan had faith in Usman Buzdar. “Being a spokesman for Imran Khan I know he stands with Mr Buzdar. The premier is not unaware of the prevailing situation,” he said.

Asked about the possibility of Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s candidature for the office of Punjab CM, Mr Rashid said: “I do not even see him as taking oath as a member of the Punjab Assembly.”

However, official sources do not rule out a reshuffle in the Punjab cabinet. “There has been a lot of pressure on CM Buzdar to deliver and to ensure this he may reshuffle a few ministers in coming days,” they said.

Ahmad Fraz Khan and Khalid Husnain also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, April 25th, 2019