- Serious questions about ability to deliver
On Friday, Prime Minister Imran Khan told the PTI Chief Ministers that he would replace those who do not deliver with ones who can. A chief minister can perform well only if he is competent and the ruling party is united under him. The last eight months indicate that competence is in short supply in the Punjab PTI leadership. CM Usman Buzdar miserably failed to control widespread violence during the TLP protests in November. It took him six months to get rid of a foul-mouthed Information Minister, who is supposedly being inducted into the cabinet once again. The government has shown inability to complete on time the remaining work on the Orange Line Metro Train Project. The Supreme Court has now set a deadline of May 20 for the completion of the project. It took the Punjab cabinet eight months to prepare the Punjab Local Government Bill 2019 for the Assembly to debate.
There are competing centres of power in the coalition government. When appointed, Mr Buzdar was supposed to enforce decisions made at Bani Gala, maintain a low profile as a simple and honest man from the most under-developed area of the country. Keeping in view how disparate elements were herded together to provide PTI a majority in Punjab, expecting the CM to deliver is asking for the moon. The government allies have unending demands. MPAs want a hefty rise in salaries and perks; ministers and other public officials want brand new limousines; the alliance leaders want a larger share in ministries. Most of all, everyone wants to strengthen his constituency through development funds and appointment of obliging government administrators. Despite the financial crunch everyone wants to create new Tehsils, District and Divisions.
The Buzdar government is ruling Punjab with a thin majority. As rival power centres in the government vie with one another in the race for influence, an opposition party is trying hard to persuade PTI allies in the province to ditch the government in return for ministries of their choice in the new setup.
Punjab meanwhile faces multiple challenges from a growing number of jobless graduates, falling crop yields, worsening business climate, and deteriorating public service delivery. Can the PTI government in Punjab deliver under the prevailing constraints?