Marking the end of 10-year rule of PML(N) in the country’s largest province, PTI’s Usman Ahmed Khan Buzdar was elected as 20th Chief Minister of Punjab on Sunday. The newly-elected Prime Minister Imran Khan has earlier named him as his much-hyped “young and educated” nominee for this important slot. “I have nominated Sardar Usman as Punjab chief minister”, he said in a video message. He further explained that he has chosen Sardar Usman because “he hails from an area that is the most backward. People there have no water, electricity or hospital.” Usman Buzdar, after being elected as CM Punjab, also proudly claimed his deprivation and backwardness to be his primary credentials for this slot. Besides the mainstream media, social media has also strongly reacted to this important appointment rendering it instantly controversial. One wonders why PTI has preferred a new entrant like Usman Buzdar over a number of its old, die-hard and apparently better party leaders while making nomination for this crucial slot. How can a naive and ‘non-ideological’ person effectively advance or implement PTI’s so-called agenda of change in Punjab?
Obsessed with the idea of forming its government at Centre, PTI never seriously focused on constituting any pro-active team to deliver in the provinces. Its run-of-the-mill provincial administration couldn’t deliver anything extraordinary in the KP province during the last five years. It did also not bother to devise any future strategy to handle and deliver in the largest province of Punjab. It has been trying to dislodge Premier Nawaz Sharif. Now, almost all the seasoned and experienced PTI leaders are part of the newly-elected federal government. Chaudhry Sarwar, a veteran PTI leader, tried to promote and organize this party in Punjab. However, due to known reasons, he was not only stopped from doing this but also disconnected with electoral politics by making a Senator on a party seat.
Pakistan is a federation where there is a constitutional division between the federal and provincial subjects. After the 18th amendment passed by the Parliament in 2010, now provinces exclusively deal with the matters directly involving the welfare of the masses ranging from health, education, law and order to the infrastructure development and the local government institutions.
Therefore, no political party can properly implement its manifesto and reforms agenda without forming its government in the provinces. In fact, a large number of extensive reforms mentioned in PTI’s 100-day plan as well as PM Imran Khan’s inaugural address are largely related to the subjects which are essentially within the administrative domain of the provinces. Therefore, PTI government can hardly implement its promised reform agenda in the country without forming efficient provincial governments in the three provinces. No doubt, PTI should select some competent and dynamic individuals to head provincial governments, especially in Punjab.
It is really regrettable that PTI has primarily taken into consideration the backwardness and deprivation of the area new CM Punjab hails from rather than his personal qualities and qualifications. In fact, Individuals from the backward and less-developed areas are given preferential treatment by the government through earmarking a quota for them in the public sector jobs (though the recruitment policy of the provincial public service commission in Punjab no longer recognizes this sort of quota). So, in order to uplift backward areas, the elected members from these areas can also be given adequate representation in the provincial cabinet. However, there is no point in appointing anyone as a chief minister merely on account of his humble or unprivileged background. A chief minister is the chief executive of the province. He holds the highest administrative slot in the province. He is responsible for running the entire affairs of the provincial government effectively and efficiently. Therefore, for an individual to be appointed a chief minister, the primary qualifications should be his capacity, integrity and competence rather than anything else.
The newly-elected CM Punjab Usman Buzdar has no known experience of running a provincial administration. He has never been part of any provincial government. He has never been an ideological worker of PTI. He just joined PTI ahead of last general elections. He has been a typical political turncoat who readily becomes part of every victorious political party. Ironically, he is now talking of ‘good governance’ who doesn’t know the ABC of governance. It just makes a mockery of the PTI’s much-hyped ‘Tabdeeli’ (change). Jahangir Khan Tareen could be the best person inside PTI to lead the administration of Punjab if he were not disqualified by the apex court. Similarly, the PTI leaders like Chaudhry Sarwar, Shah Mehmood Qureshi or Shafqat Manhood are also eligible and suitable for this slot. PTI should have made some political decisions and electoral arrangements to retain any of them in Punjab to head the provincial government to effective implement its agenda of change and reforms.
Cognizant of the so-called Punjab factor in the country’s politics, PML(N) has been governing this province through Mian Shehbaz Sharif, who is considered the most important leader of the party after Nawaz Sharif. During his chief ministership, he assumed the title of “Khadim-e-Aala”. He earned the reputation of a great administrator who had a firm control over the provincial bureaucracy. He launched many projects of infrastructural development and public transport, including the rapid mass transit projects in many cities. He was also considered an active and dynamic CM known for his long working hours. It is a fact PML(N) has been ruling Pakistan primarily on account of its performance and popularity in Punjab. Certainty, the performance of the incumbent CM Punjab Usman Buzdar will be viewed and judged in juxtaposition with his predecessor Mian Shehbaz Sharif. Therefore, PTI should have nominated a dynamic, experienced and active person to govern Punjab in order to dilute the impression of governance of Khadim-e-Aala.
It is currently being speculated that Usman Buzdar would be merely a dummy or ceremonial chief minister while governor-designate Chaudhry Sarwar would be calling the shots in the province. So, Governor Punjab would be directly exercising his control over the provincial administration. Similarly, Speaker Punjab Assembly Pervez Elahi, and other PTI leader, namely Jahangir Tareen and Aleem Khan would also have a role to play in the provincial affairs. Besides this, federal government would also monitor and influence the Punjab government. In his first address to the nation, PM Imran Khan has hinted at introducing some extensive institutional reforms in the provinces, especially in Punjab. He also announced the formation of an advisory board, head by former KP police chief Nasir Durrani, to reform Punjab police. These practices would only give rise to administrative adhocism and anomalies in Punjab after significantly undermining the principles of provincial autonomy, the rule of law and some established democratic traditions.
Noticeably, indecisiveness, indiscipline, adhocism and authoritarianism are becoming the hallmarks of PTI. It has been dilly-dallying over the recent appointment of caretaker CM Punjab. Now it has made another disappointing and controversial decision by nominating and appointing Usman Buzdar as CM Punjab. It is apparently inconsistent with one of ‘guiding principles’ of Naya Pakistan i.e. “putting the right people in the right job”. We are currently clueless about Naya Pakistan. However, a number of recent political developments in Punjab have started unveiling the contours of ‘Naya Punjab’ at least.
n The writer is a lawyer and columnist based in Lahore.