THE departure of former Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar from politics is not really surprising as the PTI is plagued by a defection pandemic. In fact, that Mr Buzdar was the chief executive of the country’s most populous province in the first place remains a thing of wonder. Why the PTI chairman selected Mr Buzdar to be Punjab’s chief minister is a mystery. Throughout his years in office, Mr Khan, who labelled Mr Buzdar his ‘Wasim Akram-plus’, came under heavy criticism for his poor choice. Although he always maintained that Mr Buzdar was chosen because of his loyalty, simplicity and honesty, alternative theories have abounded. Some speculated that Mr Khan had appointed the unknown politician to maintain a firm grip on the province, and that appointing a political heavyweight to the position would have meant living with the paranoia that other forces could control the province. There was also speculation that Mr Buzdar was trusted by Mr Khan’s spouse, who is said to have warned him that without Mr Buzdar, his fate would be sealed. Whatever the reason, Mr Khan was forced to come to his chief minister’s defence on numerous occasions. Both inside the PTI and externally, there was serious criticism that Mr Buzdar was not performing well and was unable to take decisions. And yet, Mr Khan dug in his heels and did not budge on this appointment. In an interview to this paper after his ouster, Mr Khan said that Mr Buzdar’s appointment was one of the key points of contention between him and the then security establishment.
One could laud Mr Khan for standing his ground on the Buzdar issue in the face of establishment pressure, but given the various other areas of governance that he had quietly relinquished to the establishment, this obstinacy stands out as bizarre. Today, as Mr Buzdar leaves politics and the party, many are left thinking why he was ever here at all.
Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2023