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Has Usman Buzdar Survived?

Irish polemicist George Bernard Shaw held that “Political necessities sometimes turn out to be political mistakes”.

Who could better understand this than Prime Minister Imran Khan, the man who has been bequeathed the power to rule Pakistan after a decades-old struggle but insists on handing the control of the largest province to a man who seems unprepared to govern and unwilling to learn? He is also unsure of how COVID-19 ‘bites’.

Perhaps the nomination of Usman Buzdar as Punjab’s Chief Minister was a political necessity in the aftermath of the 2018 elections when there were at least a dozen contenders for Punjab’s top slot but according to strong voices within the ruling party, this necessity has fast turned into a political mistake which might have severe long term consequences.

Consider the following:

Punjab is arguably the most strategically important province of Pakistan which hosts more than half of its population. Punjab is used to significant development works in the previous terms which saw highly visible growth in the realms of infrastructure, transport and energy.

How wise is it, purely in political terms, to appoint a man who has not even run a district to run a province? Is it a reasonable expectation for that man to compete with former Chief Ministers like Shehbaz Sharif or Pervaiz Elahi who have created their own brand through a distinct mix of calculated endeavours and perception management?

Add a couple of corruption allegations and you have a disaster par excellence. Brothers and uncles accusing each other of bribery, land grabbing and abuse of power. Dubious liquor licenses, helicopter insurance frauds, Gateway to Lahore construction contracts to favourite contractors, it sounds bad, very bad.

And its potent fodder for the people who claim that PTI is not only deceiving the masses on its agenda of accountability but is actually a corrupt party itself whose chief minister is currently being investigated by the National Accountability Bureau for bribes as low as a few crores.

While the honourable Prime Minister might laugh off these allegations and express public satisfaction over the Intelligence Bureau reports on the charges against Usman Buzdar, he has accepted that if a strong case comes forth against Buzdar, he will be the first person to ask him to resign.

If Aleem Khan can be asked to resign ahead of a NAB case and Jahangir Khan Tareen can be flown away to London and somewhat discarded in the wake of an FIA report, is it unreasonable to imagine the resignation of Usman Buzdar in the aftermath of serious corruption allegations, at least while he is being investigated?

Only if it were too simple. The reason why this political necessity is transitioning towards an irreparable mistake is simple because of numbers, important numbers, which the PTI lacks in order to conduct a smooth transfiguration in Punjab.

This is where the Chaudhrys of Gujrat come in. With 10 strategically important seats, they are sidelined, angry and absolutely ready for another innings of power politics.

The PTI has 181 MPAs in Punjab, PML-N has 166, PML-Q, 10, PPP, 7, MEI, 1 and the Independents, 4.

If the Chaudhrys refuse to support the future PTI candidate for CM Punjab and instead align with the opposition, the latter would have a majority by 3 seats, barring the independents.

If the PML-Q was given what it was promised, perhaps it could’ve been smooth sailing from here but promises in politics are often meant to be broken.

An acceptable compromise candidate in the form of the stalwart from Dhamial, Raja Basharat has come to light, someone who is considered to enjoy the rare support of Bani Gala, Gujrat as well as Rawalpindi with no corruption allegations in a 4-decade political career.

If the PTI wishes to mesmerise the masses, at least in Punjab and continue its narrative against corruption in the next elections then change seems like the rational move forward to achieve this goal.

And even though Chief Minister Punjab Usman Buzdar might be inaugurating a single double-decker bus in Rawalpindi at the date of his second NAB hearing and regardless of the fact that he has not yet received a summons for his third hearing and although he might be giving stoic interviews to sympathetic hosts, has he survived?

Perhaps, but not for long.

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