Buzdar uncertainty

Published November 26, 2019

FROM being touted as a symbol of the common man’s empowerment in August 2018 to becoming the ‘imminent fall guy’ just over a year later, it has been a steep climb down for Sardar Usman Buzdar.

Read: Calls for Buzdar’s ouster rising in PTI

But even so, the signs are that while the Punjab chief minister may be down, he has not been ruled out.

The inability of the Buzdar setup is commonly listed as a significant failure of the Imran Khan government.

It is true that some of the most well-informed analysts believe that the ‘expendable’ sardar from southern Punjab could be sacrificed by Prime Minister Khan to meet the strong demands of change. However, there are problems with these views that see Mr Khan as just another pliant ruler.

The PTI chief has demonstrated, not least because of his inconsistent position on political matters in recent days, that it is not always easy to make him see the ‘logic’ of the steps that his alleged backers insist he must take. The unnecessary debate he managed to stir over the issue of Nawaz Sharif’s medical treatment abroad is an example.

The same mind that appeared to be in a state of agitation over Mr Sharif’s departure would not be prepared to see the Punjab chief minister being forced to exit. Hence, the topic of discussion in the many emergency meetings that have taken place between Mr Khan and Mr Buzdar could well be on survival, instead of dismissal.

It has also been observed that those who speak of an impending ouster of the chief minister disregard many factors.

If Mr Buzdar’s nomination as chief minister was a compromise between Mr Khan’s supporters in 2018, there are now too many groups within the PTI to call it a united entity. In fact, the gulf is widening and there are many power-wielders in the province, who Mr Buzdar would have to cut down to size in order to rule effectively.

In other examples of widening divisions, the general secretary of the PTI in central Punjab resigned over intra-party differences, while in a show of extreme resentment, a large number of PTI Punjab lawmakers stayed away from a recent parliamentary party meeting.

These are enough signs to caution the more astute PTI members against taking the risk of holding elections for a new chief minister. Mr Buzdar had won the chief minister’s post by the slimmest majority in the house — securing 186 out of 371 votes. The tally included votes by the PTI, plus by the PML-Q and three independent MPAs. Against this backdrop, there is no reason for Mr Khan to expose his government and party to the tough test that an election for a new chief minister in Punjab could turn out to be. He already has too many monsters to deal with. Creating a new one will not help matters.

Published in Dawn, November 26th, 2019

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