The first Chief Minister (CM) of divided Punjab was Nawab Iftikhar Mamdot. He remained CM for about two years then he was replaced by Mumtaz Daultana. Mamdot Sahib was an honest and upright politician while Daultana was not. Intriguing and drawing room politics was his forte. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) called him a ‘mouse’. The Mamdot – Daultana tussle for power hurt the province badly and weakened both the party and democracy. There were several CM’s after them till Ayub Khan introduced the Governor’s rule in the two wings while he ruled the centre with an iron fist. Even the capital was moved from Karachi to Islamabad as it was closer to his GHQ.

After the breakup of Quaid’s Pakistan, ZAB appointed Malik Mairaj Khalid as CM Punjab. Malik Sahib was an honest individual, very humble and down to earth. He believed strongly in human development and equality. As CM, he never used the title or caste with his name, so Malik was dropped. He lived all his life in a small town house near Regal Chowk and eventually perished there leaving no empire but a legacy of service to the people. His college and stadium in his border village near Lahore stands out. After the promulgation of the 1973 constitution ZAB appointed Malik Ghulam Mustafa Khar as CM and Mairaj Sahib moved to the center. Khar was a great people’s man very strong in inter-personal skills but not too keen on governance. He was bold and charismatic. In order to improve the provincial administration Muhammad Hanif Ramay was appointed CM on Mar 15, 1974 and held office till July11, 1975.

Ramay Sahib was a unique individual, artist, writer, orator, and social activist- to mention a few of his qualities. He believed in equality and lifting the common man, a socialist by all standards. It was during his tenure that the arts councils were built all over the province. I remember the small dilapidated building on the Mall which housed the council once run by Faiz Sahib. Today it’s a complex and centre of art and culture in the city. From the CM quota he allotted plots to journalists, writers and artists. Being a public man he held regular open katchehries and had a very effective complaint cell in the civil secretariat. Education and health was his priority. Senior officers had to keep visiting hours for the public. His popularity graph was on the rise. In his own words he was the first CM who was lodged directly in the dungeons of Lahore fort from the Club Road residence of the provincial chief executive.

ZAB then brought in Nawab Sadiq Hussain Qureshi to be the CM. Nawab Sahib remained in office from July 11, 1975 to July 5, 1977 when Zia imposed martial law. He was a good administrator but lacked public contact. A lot of infra-structure projects were launched during his tenure. He was personally seen inspecting road projects early in the morning driving his Jaguar. After a socialist CM like Ramay Sahib who thrived on public contact, Nawab Sahib who a member of the elite moved the party towards the right of centre and in the grip of the privileged class. When crunch time came, ZAB despite his popularity could not face the onslaught of the combined opposition which had one point agenda of his removal.

It is because of their long stints in power and control extending over 15 years, that they exercise influence over the Baboos and Qazis. With this kind of support they have started to look in the face of the Khakis as well. Unless they are politically challenged the Kingdom of Jatti Umra will rule over Punjab forever. Sharif’s have also proven the importance of controlling the largest province of the country as it is a conduit to the Prime Minister (PM) House. The opposition has to seriously tackle the threat posed by the Sharif Dynasty.

Had PTI prevailed in the 2013 electoral exercise, Comrade Ahsan Rashid as founder member, President Punjab and party organizer would have been the logical choice for the coveted slot of CM. As a firm believer in the concept of welfare state, he certainly would have made a big difference like Comrade Hanif Ramay had before him. The electables both within the party and outside were gunning for him. In the Inter Party Election (IPE) he was made to bite the dust through massive rigging and manipulation. Then in the General Elections, the Sharif’s did not spare him as he was a threat to their status-quo. Despite his ailment he joined the protest at Lalik Chowk after the elections when the electables within the party had shyed away.

The question is who will take on the Sharif’s in the next elections- whenever they take place. Within PTI, it is rumored that Chaudhry Sarwar is in line to be the first elected President Punjab followed by CM of the province. It seems a repeat of the Ghulam Haider Wyne era (13-8-90 to 25-4-93) when in fact Shahbaz Sharif was the de facto chief executive. When President Ishaq Khan dismissed the government of PM Nawaz Sharif the Punjab administration fell like a house of cards and the crafty Manzoor Wattoo came into power. It seems the opposition including PTI is not taking the Sharif threat seriously. Unless cornered through street power the Mian clan is hard to crack, the drawing room electables do not stand a chance as they have been repeatedly brutalized by PML(N) and their foul methods. Till today the 1970 election stands out as the only credible exercise. ZAB carried the day with a new script and massive mobilization of people through Comrades like Hanif Ramay, Mairaj Muhammad Khan, Dr. Mubashir Hassan and Taj Haider. CM Punjab is an important position for which the battle lines have to be clearly defined. Proxy fighters and new comers don’t stand a chance, a candidate of the stature of Comrade Ahsan Rashid or Kaptaan himself is needed to take on the Takht-e-Lahore and prevail.