Buzdar’s new avatar

Updated September 15, 2019

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JUST as fortune-tellers base their predictions on particular signs, the state of the Punjab government under Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar is fundamental to assessing Prime Minister Imran Khan’s emotions at a certain moment in time.

Recent developments suggest that there are at least some serious concerns over how Punjab is being run.

There are reports that the central authority has repeatedly urged Mr Buzdar to come out of his shell and perform. This call from the top has seemingly emboldened the chief minister, who has since been seeing making demands, and not just of the bureaucracy. Taking full advantage of Mr Khan’s advice on how assertive a chief minister should eventually turn out to be, Sardar Buzdar has apparently sought a few concessions from his own leadership.

This is the context in which the exit of two of the chief minister’s advisers is being seen. Mr Awn Chaudhry is known to be a Khan confidant, posted as an adviser to the chief minister in Lahore on some assignment that was never clarified. While this fact doesn’t necessarily make his departure a non-event, his fall has not made the same impact as Dr Shahbaz Gill’s ouster.

Dr Gill was all blood and thunder while defending the Punjab government. His reminders that he was doing it for his leader Imran Khan had only increased with time, and even by his standards the manner in which he discussed Mr Buzdar’s position towards the end of his assignment was odd. It was a remarkable roundabout equation in which Dr Gill prima facie defended Mr Buzdar’s right to be chief minister, but only because he had been handpicked by ‘my leader’ Imran Khan. His reference to the person and demeanour of the prime minister’s choice of chief minister in Punjab had left people wondering, until it emerged that concealed therein may have been Mr Gill’s own grievances against the chief minister — who, recall again, he was serving at his leader’s behest.

Sardar Usman Buzdar is said to have been making his own overtures in search of a new image for himself, apart from escaping the influence of unwanted advisers. Of late, he has managed to convince himself that he can give interviews to the media, especially to those journalists who are not exactly looking to ‘grill’ him here and now.

The chief minister has also tried to adopt a firm line in his directives to the bureaucracy, and the footage of him admonishing some provincial healthcare officers is doing the rounds. Quite clearly, he is on a mission of change, reinforced for the time being by the latest statement in support of him by the prime minister a few days ago. Asked to perform in full public view, he must do it in the knowledge that he is now more likely to attract notice.

Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2019