Sunday Dec 08, 2019
If someone within the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) deserved the title of being called ‘Man of the Year-2019’, it is Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar, prime minister’s Wasim Akram-Plus and Fayyazul Hasan Chohan’s ‘Sher Shah Suri-Plus.
No other leader within the party has enjoyed complete confidence of ‘Kaptaan’; Prime Minister Imran Khan, than the provincial chief executive of the biggest province. For critics, premier is the non-playing captain and the de facto CM; the other is federal minister Murad Saeed.
What is the secret behind the ‘invisible’ success story of Buzdar is still a secret? While Imran said he picked Buzdar as CM for two reasons, firstly, because of his poor family background, who belongs to remote area of Punjab, and (2) for his honesty, but he was never the first choice and came due to internal party differences and race for the top slot.
There are reasons to believe why he should be named as ‘PTI Man of the Year’ without making any impact and failed in making his presence felt. The PTI leaders hardly have any answer as why he can’t be replaced.
The premier during his last visit has practically given a ‘shut up’ call to party leaders and ambitious candidates.
(1) He survived the whole year without doing much despite claims made in the recently published ‘booklet’ highlighting his success. (2) He is practically number 2, being the chief minister of the biggest province though he had joined the PTI in 2018, months before election. (3) He won the race of chief minister’s slot of the biggest province, beating top stalwarts like Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Chaudhry Sarwar, Aleem Khan and Fawad Chaudhry while Jehangir Tareen was disqualified.
(3) He can hardly take a personal credit for any major initiative and yet the PM praised him for all his work and was not ready to take any ‘U-turn’ on his choice. (4) PM has given his consent that he is there till the next elections.
The year-2020 would be a challenging year not for Buzdar but for Imran as the de facto CM as all indications are that the new Punjab chief secretary has now been given a more active role and all the secretaries have been asked not to send ‘direct summaries’ to the chief minister, but should go through chief secretary.
The massive reshuffle in the bureaucracy and police also came through ‘direct orders’ from the top and for the first time the PM has not even taken the Chaudhrys of Gujrat into confidence. Keeping the forthcoming local bodies elections in mind, the recent bureaucratic changes would be quite a challenge for the PTI government.
Some critics called Imran as the de facto chief minister and ruling the province through indirect federal rule and some of the recent decisions clearly indicate that more powers have been given to the chief secretary and all the secretaries have been told not to send direct file to the chief minister but it should go through chief secretary.
For all practical purposes the prime minister after the recent visit to Lahore passed a strong message to his own party leaders, some of whom he believed were behind campaign against Buzdar, that the man has come to stay and is going nowhere.
Interestingly, Buzdar faced less criticism from the Opposition and more from party’s own circle and media and prime minister has to come to Lahore almost every week and return after taking some decisions.
The PM in the last 15 months has not met any chief minister including Mahmood Khan of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as much as he met with Buzdar. His last meeting with Sindh chief minister was about a year ago while he held a few meetings with Balochistan chief minister and KP’s chief minister.
Sources said PM Imran during his recent meeting with Buzdar asked him to look more assertive and aggressive and start facing the media with more confidence. For all this, he has once again picked vocal and aggressive Fayyazul Hasan Chohan as Punjab’s information minister to back Buzdar in a powerful way.
In the last one year, IK has tried Shahbaz Gill, Samsam Bokhari and Mian Aslam, but because of their soft and matured tone they were discarded and resulted in the return of Chohan as he is known for his traditional Punjabi-style of politics. Last time Chohan was removed after he passed some indecent remarks about Hindus.
Also for the first time prime minister has asked Buzdar and his new team to launch massive ‘projection drive’ and picked vocal boy from Rawalpindi Fayyazul Hasan Chohan to take the responsibility of defending the chief minister. Chohan, who in the past had faced problems within the PTI and once his membership was also suspended is now back as provincial information minister and already made his presence felt.
So, Mr Chohan has a job to do which neither Mian Aslam nor Samsam Bokhari or any other top PTI leader has done in defending Imran’s choice after 2018 elections.
The message which the PM has given during his last visit to Punjab was loud and clear to those within the PTI to wait till the next elections. Knowing fully well that the chief minister did not enjoy the confidence of the PTI Punjab and party’s stalwarts like Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar or Aleem Khan once the strong candidates for the CM slot; Imran has asked them to support Buzdar as he is going nowhere.
It was also a message for PTI’s strong allies in Punjab; Chaudhrys of Gujrat after former chief minister Pervaiz Elahi in his back-to-back interviews did not defend Buzdar.
Imran has asked his party leaders in Punjab to start mending fences with Buzdar and accept this reality that he is going nowhere.
“What one can say about Buzdar except that he is PM’s choice who is not ready to listen to any criticism on him for the reason best known to him,” said a PTI federal minister, who doesn’t want to be named.
“The PM has taken a big risk to carry on with Buzdar, particularly when local bodies’ elections are due in 2020,” he added.
The local bodies elections will be the turning point in ‘make and break’ not only for Buzdar but also for PTI’s political future in Punjab. The other factor which can give real boost to the ruling party is the future of Sharifs as the cases and investigation against Shahbaz Sharif has also gathered pace.
“We all know that Imran Khan is a man of crisis and he has taken the risk of making Buzdar a success story,” the minister said.
However, a journalist who supports the PTI, defended Usman Buzdar as chief minister saying that Imran Khan had selected him after a lot of deliberations so that this man could take political allies along. He said that Buzdar is a soft person and, while working, keeps a low profile, adding that the other ministers also have liberty of work without any hurdle from the executive.
He said that Buzdar does not favour any one, and there is no grouping within the party and the coalition. He said that Imran Khan likes Usman Buzdar because of his loyalty, honesty and steadfastness.
In the past, Imran has given the task to his close aide Naeemul Haq to look after Buzdar’s problems but since Haq is not well and fighting a dangerous disease the task has been given to vocal Chohan.
Now the premier has allowed Punjab government to spend more on the projection of chief minister’s 15-month success and the recent publication of ‘booklet’ highlighting the development projects and schemes under the present provincial government and chief minister was also part of the campaign to project him.
No provincial governments in the last 15 months have changed secretaries, IGPs and other civil servants in such a short span of time as Wasim Akram-Plus.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is known for taking ‘U-turns’ and a big defender of taking such turns surprised many within and outside the PTI as why he insists on keeping Sardar Usman Buzdar. It will remain a big secret and the man certainly deserved to be called ‘Man of the Year’ for the PTI.
The writer is a senior columnist and analyst of Geo, The News and Jang.
Originally published in The News