It is no easy task to effectively run a province, especially if it is home to approximately 56% of the population of the entire country. It becomes even more trickier if one man believes that he can do it all by himself. Punjab Chief Minister (CM), Shahbaz Sharif, is currently serving his third time in the office, and appears to be in mood to alter his autocratic approach towards governance. The cabinet of any province is critical for the functioning of governmental and administrative affairs. It is where laws and policies are shaped and scrutinized, information between ministers is exchanged and progress is assessed – all of which directly affect the lives of the voters. This is why cabinet meetings are considered extremely important in functioning democracies around the world, but not in Punjab.

Since its formation in June last year, the Punjab Cabinet has met only on two occasions, the last time in September 2013. Several laws and policy matters are pending. Only those are passed which are circulated to cabinet ministers for approval, without going through the hassle of actually convening a cabinet meeting. Mr Shahbaz Sharif is running the show from his residence in Model Town, where secretaries of different departments appear before him to receive directions, which are forwarded as summaries to be approved pronto. Ministers are not in-charge of their ministries in actual terms, as the top man himself takes many key decisions. In short, Mr Shahbaz Sharif is not just the chief minister of Punjab, he is the provincial government.

If after all this time spent in office, Mr Shahbaz Sharif deems it necessary to do it all by himself, then surely, he’s doing something wrong. A system must never rely on the performance of single personality. It works best if institutions and departments are established, and are set in motion in a mechanism, which allows them to function smoothly over a given period of time. By taking absolute control, the CM is undermining the role of his ministers. There can only be two reasons why it is the case. It could either be because Mr Shahbaz Sharif cannot trust them with their duties, or simply because he is unwilling to relinquish control. Either ways, reform is necessary. At the end of the day, it is the relevant ministers, which are required to answer questions concerning their domain. If they are not even aware of the workings of their departments and thus unable to address queries, the role of the entire provincial assembly is reduced. The CM is advised to routinely call cabinet meetings, and delegate responsibility. Otherwise, he is merely running a show, which will end as soon as he leaves the stage.