Can PM Imran replace CM Buzdar amidst current controversy?

Prime Minister Imran Khan was reportedly structurally forced to let Usman Buzdar sit in the driving seat back in 2018. However, now he wants to replace him but the same structure does not allow him to do so. What challenges does PM Khan face to replace Buzdar?

Usman Buzdar

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) continues to face challenges in Punjab. The current controversy emerged after Federal Minister for Science and Technology, Fawad Chuadhry, criticized Chief Minister Usman Buzdar for his incompetence and inability to deliver in the provinces according to the promised PTI had made before coming into power. Mr. Chaudhary has also written a letter to the prime minister, raising questions over Usman Buzdar’s performance and saying the provincial government was giving a bad name to the ruling PTI due to its “poor” performance. Notably, his outburst on the issue of the chief minister’s performance was also heard in the PTI core committee’s meeting chaired by the prime minister on last Thursday.

However, Provincial Information Minister Fayyazul Hassan Chohan has rejected the allegations leveled by Mr. Chaudhry against the CM, and urged him not to get emotional.  “Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry is a respectable minister but sometimes he makes emotional statements and claimed that Punjab had spent only Rs77 billion so far in development works. However being the information minister and provincial government’s spokesperson I would like to clear the facts that he (Fawad) presented wrong figures of development works.”

Read more: Administrative changes in Punjab: Bureaucracy or CM, where does problem lie?

Interestingly, Mr. Chohan also said that there would be no change in the provincial government and Sardar Usman Buzdar would continue to serve the province as chief minister for the next three years. “I once again categorically deny rumours of change in Punjab as a campaign had been launched against the chief minister. He will complete his term,” Mr Chohan said.

The PTI’s coalition partners — Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q), Mutahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM), Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) and Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) — have already expressed their reservations over their alliance with the ruling party, compelling the prime minister to form a committee of senior PTI leaders to appease the allied parties.

According to a report prepared by GVS, there are three theories as to why Prime Minister Imran Khan is not willing to replace CM Buzdar despite his inability materialize the PTI’s idea of Naya Pakistan. Firstly, there are some analysts and experts who believe that there is a common perception about Punjab, its chief minister and his power. Any powerful Chief Minister in the province is thought to be a threat to the federal government. Therefore, PM Imran decided to let Buzdar sit in the driving seat since he appears to be harmless or can easily be tamed.

Secondly, there is an argument that after the disqualification of Jahangir Khan Tareen by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, initiation of an inquiry against Aleem Khan, and Shah Mehmood’s defeat in PP-127 created conflicts and competing groups in the party. These groups suggested names for the CM-ship. But Imran Khan was reportedly reluctant to adopt anybody from the proposed candidates as it might have created more problems within the party. Therefore, argue analysts, Khan preferred to bring in a neutral, non-assertive man in the most powerful seat in Punjab.

Read more: Calls for Buzdar’s replacement: PTI leaders eager for Punjab CM’s ouster

Thirdly, there is a strong view which focuses on the vision of PTI’s chairman; Naya Pakistan, a Pakistan where the poor would have more representation, development and political attention. Hence, Khan decided to bring in a man from an underdeveloped area of Punjab to give a strong message to the masses that Punjab does not necessarily mean on Lahore or Faisalabad.

Senior PTI’s leader spoke to GVS and maintained that now Imran Khan want to replace Usman Buzdar. “Khan issued warning to Buzdar like for several times. He wants Buzdar to be replaced. But structural conditions are changed now. PML-Q, independents and some bureaucrats want a Chief Minister like Buzdar who lets everyone rule the province,” he said. It is worth recalling that the PML-Q has repeatedly said that it will not allow Imran Khan to replace Usman Buzdar.

Read more: Governance Crisis in Punjab: Should Punjab’s first man be changed?

The question is if Prime Minister Imran Khan is not in a position to replace Buzdar then does he have any alternative to ensure better governance in the province? Importantly, Khan’s bureaucratic model of governance is appearing to be flawed as political opposition is getting united to challenge it.

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