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Punjab cabinet reshuffle

July 22, 2019

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DESPITE nearly one year in office, it seems that Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar is still not independent when it comes to running the affairs of his cabinet. This was highlighted recently when the portfolios of six provincial ministers were reshuffled after Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed displeasure with their performance. Following a one-to-one meeting between the premier and Mr Buzdar, Information Minister Samsam Bukhari and five others had their portfolios reassigned. It appears that the prime minister was unhappy with Mr Bukhari’s failure to hit out at the opposition in Punjab in response to the hard-hitting speeches being delivered by PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz against Mr Khan and the ruling set-up. The Punjab government had inducted Mr Bukhari in March on the understanding that he would launch an unrelenting assault on the opposition after the previous minister, firebrand Fayyaz Chohan, was removed for making incendiary comments about the Hindu community. Mr Bukhari at the outset had maintained that “my language and tone will be different”, referring to his predecessor Mr Chohan.

The decision to reshuffle the cabinet lays bare the extent to which Mr Buzdar’s autonomy is limited, even after almost a year of being in office. Mr Buzdar had appeared on the political scene out of nowhere — it was a decision which left many stunned as they had expected the coveted position of Punjab chief minister would go to a prominent and known political figure. Yet, at that time and on several other occasions, Mr Khan backed Mr Buzdar’s appointment to one of the most powerful positions in the civilian set-up. For months after his appointment, Mr Buzdar was the subject of curiosity and criticism, for he was an elusive figure reluctant to engage with the media. There was much speculation that a little-known personality like him was appointed to allow someone else to call the shots — an impression that has not changed. Mr Khan would be well advised to give room to Mr Buzdar to make decisions instead of undermining him and proving his critics right.

Published in Dawn, July 22nd, 2019