Method behind the madness | Pakistan Today

Method behind the madness

Understanding Usman Buzdar’s nomination for Punjab’s CM

Imran Khan has nominated Usman Buzdar for the post of Punjab’s chief minister. Buzdar who hails from Southern side of the province is being projected as the new face which Khan’s party had promised. While Buzdar has no previous experience of managing bureaucracy or serving in a position where he has to make important decisions, he is being projected as someone who understands the masses problems and can take forward the PTI’s reformation vision. On the whole, he has no credentials and his appointment beyond the rhetoric of change shows a lot about where PTI’s may be going in Pakistan’s biggest province and consequently in the country with its politics.

There are two main reasons why Buzdar may have been tipped for the CM office.

First, Imran Khan has taken weeks before announcing the name of Punjab’s chief minister. Among other things, it shows the internal scuffle among various groups that hail from Punjab and have lobbied to bring in their own man to office. Before the decision of Buzdar was made public, various names from PTI’s old guard to newer and young ones were making rounds for the position. To an extent, all of the names from Western, Northern to Southern Punjab either reflected interests of one group in the party or the other or belonged to an ethnic group which was either fireclay opposed or out rightly rejected within the party’s ranks. On the other hand, there was an argument of Khan considering a black swan sort of arrangement whereby some shrewd, extremely committed and governance savvy individual who predominantly believes in the party’s restructuring and reformation vision and doesn’t have much of linkage with landed, feudal and ethnic old guard can be bought forth for the post. None of the abovementioned scenarios have transpired while at the same time a name for the CM ship has emerged which equates to keeping the office divested.

Second, the decision of choosing someone like Buzdar who is neither a visionary nor has a basic understanding of running a province further shows that the race for the CM office is not done yet. Why would Khan choose someone who is neither the party’s worker – he has previously been associated with the PML-N and has also been a member of the PML-Q – nor can be a force to be reckoned with when it comes to matching Shahbaz Sharif’s ‘administrative charisma’ and assertive role in managing the bureaucracy? The calculation comes down to one point: he is a decision which for now doesn’t hurt any camp in the party and at the same time is not a threat. Additionally, he can take dictations and due to his weak position in terms of no influence within the party, can be easily managed by powerhouse groups like Tareen and others who are close to Khan. In a nutshell, he is someone who would hardly be running the government and is an appointment which is going to be replaced as soon as consensus emerges within the party’s ranks for a permanent name.

On the whole, he has no credentials and his appointment beyond the rhetoric of change shows a lot about where PTI’s may be going in Pakistan’s biggest province and consequently in the country with its politics.

There are already reports indicating that Tareen will contest the upcoming by-election to place himself for the position which lays in the hands of an easy replacement at the CM house. In this regard, the previous decision of his disqualification is likely to be revered soon which would pave a way for his return to the electoral race before the interim election in a few months. “Sardar Usman Buzdar is only coming for three months. It’s a stop-gap arrangement. Jahangir Tareen will contest a by-election and will eventually be elected as Chief Minister Punjab,” said an analyst.

Assuming that this is the case, Tareen can prove to be an excellent choice as he has the personality, commitment, and vision which Khan has projected over the years. Tareen being a close ally of Khan and an individual that is politically savvy can take on the challenge of managing the opposition, vast provincial bureaucracy and at the same time, implement much of the reforms which the party has talked about for years.

However, on the other hand, if one is to assume that Buzdar is the permanent choice of the party, his appointment may prove to be the worst decision which Khan’s party may have made after coming to power. His office is likely to be hijacked by forces that have their own vested interests in the province and can take advantage of a weak CM. Even with the argument, Khan wants a weak CM in Punjab with an aim of implementing his agenda directly without the interference of a strong candidate it still doesn’t make sense with the name of Buzdar who is incompetent and ineffective when it comes to his portfolio.

The next three months will decide what the PTI wants to achieve with this appointment for the province and for the country.

Umair Jamal

Umair Jamal is a graduate of the School of Government and International Affairs, Durham University. He is a research fellow with the Centre for Governance and Policy. He regularly writes for various media outlets. He can be contacted on Twitter: @UJAmaLs.

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