For most, if not all, governments of the past, civilian or military, Punjab typically became the crown jewel of any composition. Being the most densely populated province in the country, it is a must-win for any major party looking to form a government at the centre. The PTI understood this very well going into the 2018 general elections and was able to win there, albeit with a razor thin majority, after collecting a plethora of independent electables that helped make up the required numbers. However, merely gaining control in Punjab is not enough, and governing this behemoth of a province well, with tangible results to show for it, is crucial for survival and unfortunately the PTI has failed to deliver on this latter part during its three years in power. Perhaps the most contentious and persistent issue is the fact that the political leadership in Punjab and the center is unable to find a way to work with the bureaucracy. With a seventh Police IG and sixth chief secretary being brought in with their predecessors spending 12 months and 17 months on the job respectively, it does not seem that the important matters of law and order and governance will be seeing any improvement any time soon. The new appointees might be expected to hit the ground running but the pace of work will be determined by how fast the bureaucracy in Punjab moves, which at the moment, is quite sluggish, riddled with excessive red tape and a general fear to sign off on anything too quickly owing to NAB’s overbearing and uncontrolled propensity to hound bureaucrats.
There is also an increasingly obvious arrangement where Punjab is run as an extension of the centre rather than being allowed to govern itself independently as a federating unit. This has somewhat diluted the powers and effectiveness as an administrator of Chief Minister Usman Buzdar whose appointment in 2018 was a source of much confusion and controversy as he was nowhere in the running for the top job in the province. Prime Minister Imran Khan continues to defend his choice of CM, arguing that it is a complicated and tough job and time is required to learn the ropes. Maybe the same allotment of time should be made for the IGP and chief secretary, the senior-most police officer and bureaucrat in Punjab, to achieve the results that are expected of them.