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Is a forward bloc in making in Punjab?

As the Senate elections are approaching, a group of provincial lawmakers in Punjab have once again decided to revolt against Chief Minister Usman Buzdar.

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As the Senate elections are approaching, a group of provincial lawmakers in Punjab have once again decided to revolt against Chief Minister Usman Buzdar. According to media reports, a group comprising some two dozen MPAs, apparently annoyed over Mr Buzdar’s “inability” to stem corruption and for being ignored in the allocation of development projects, has surfaced yet again to show their strength and exercise influence.

The MPAs group had first emerged under Ghazanfar Abbas Chheena over a year ago, but was eventually snubbed by none other than Prime Minister Imran Khan in a meeting with them at the Chief Minister Secretariat.

After the PM’s snub, the group remained low profile, but now it had re-emerged and was openly chiding the chief minister over his “shortcomings”.

“Chief Minister Usman Buzdar is incapable of running the country’s largest province. Under him the levels of corruption and lawlessness increased, while the quality of development works and life of the people got poorer which was proof of his inability to perform,” said an MPA from Taunsa Sharif, Khwaja Daud Sulemani told daily Dawn on Wednesday.

As the PTI is expected to win the Senate elections, there are rumors that the party’s lawmakers want the premier to replace Usman Buzdar. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, President of the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency, opines that “if the Senate election takes place in March 2021 as scheduled, the PTI is likely to emerge as the largest party in the house, displacing the PML-N from that position”.

It is, however, important to note that the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) has announced to resign from the assemblies. PPP, led by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, is one of the parties rallying against the government. Syed Murad Shah, Chief Minister Sindh, may advise the dissolution of the assembly shortly ahead of the Senate election in March 2021 which may keep an entire province out of the election.

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Mehboob writes that “in case this happens, it will be the first time that a province skips the Senate election cycle”. “Since there is no clear and explicit provision in the Constitution and the Elections Act regarding such a situation, the matter may end up in a court of law for resolution and interpretation of the Constitution,” he continued. “This may become necessary also because fresh election of the chair and deputy chair of the Senate has to take place immediately after the March 2021 election and the absence of half the representation of a province may significantly impact the outcome of these elections,” he concluded.

Why is Imran Khan not willing to replace Usman Buzdar?

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: PDM narrative ‘flops’ due to anti-Pakistan agenda: Ch Fawad

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.

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