With the most coveted political position – civil and democratic that is – a given, along with being a fulfillment of aspirations worth at least 22 years, the second most coveted post is still up for grabs at the time of writing of this piece.
For Prime Minister in waiting Imran Khan, there is a decision in waiting, with quite a few of his party leaders waiting to reap the rewards for the varying roles they have fulfilled in making the PTI the single largest party in the National Assembly, and on the verge of leading the government in the country’s most populous province.
Indeed there are others not even in the PTI who feel – or have felt in the past few days – that the Chief Minister’s position is a reward that could be won through a handful of MPAs should push come to such a shove.
There are many pros and cons – in all definitions of the two terms – with each candidate who is currently being considered as the next Punjab CM, but before we look at them, it’s important to give a shout out to the man who was so near, yet so far.
For Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the Punjab CM slot is an ambition that goes back over three decades. Even though, he has held other prominent positions – Foreign Minister being prominent among them – Punjab CM has been his aim for a while. Unfortunately, for him at least, Qureshi lost the PP seat, which would’ve all but ensured him as the Chief Minister, a decision which would’ve been a foregone conclusion for Imran Khan as well.
Of the scores of other names being mulled by the PTI leadership – which basically means Imran Khan – there are four that the position seems to have narrowed down to.
Among these is Fawad Chaudhry, the spokesperson for the party, who was at the business end of an earful from the PTI chief, for a disastrous rally in Jhelum in the lead up to the elections. Fawad Chaudhry, who was once the most hostile of Imran Khan’s critics – a lot of it is on record, at least in the shape of Twitter screenshots – might be overlooked for the simple fact that he hasn’t been in the party long enough, if not for the fact that Khan isn’t particularly fond of him.
Aleem Khan would’ve been a heavier contender had he not been embroiled in corruption cases and if his party contingent had done better in the elections – of course losing his NA seat from Lahore, wouldn’t have helped his case at all. Even though Aleem Khan’s financial clout has been pivotal in bringing PTI to the strength that the party finds itself in, but with most of his backed candidates losing in Punjab, there is a strong enough justification for Imran if he wants to snub Aleem.
The two final leading candidates are Dr Yasmin Rashid and Mian Mehmood-ur-Rasheed, and if the buzz is anything to go by, the party loyalists would be happier if either of the two becomes the Punjab CM. Dr Rashid is deemed synonymous with the Naya Pakistan rhetoric that the party has flaunted over the years, while Mian Mehmood being the outgoing Opposition Leader of the Punjab Assembly has all the right credentials.
Of course, the one thing that goes against Dr Rashid is that she didn’t win a Punjab Assembly seat, while losing her toughly contested National Assembly contest as well. Should she become the CM after entering the assembly through the reserved seat?
Mian Mehmood is a political veteran and has been in the mix of things in the Punjab Assembly, which with the expected strong PML-N opposition might be a valuable asset. But Dr Rashid is the popular choice, with a massive following among the PTI voters.
So which of the two will it be? Or neither?
The writer is a Lahore-based journalist.