LAHORE: The Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), an important ally of the ruling PTI especially in Punjab, still has no problem with Chief Minister Usman Buzdar but wants ‘complete administrative share’ in the districts where it has strong political base which it cannot afford to concede to its rivals, it emerged on Sunday.
The party of the Chaudhrys of Gujrat — Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi — is flexing its muscles to secure that share from Punjab’s ‘top bureaucracy’ that is apparently not under the control of Mr. Buzdar who is struggling in governance matters.
Had Mr. Buzdar been a ‘powerful’ chief minister, the PML-Q would not have serious concerns and not given a “one-week ultimatum” to the PTI to seriously consider its grievances, believe some party leaders.
After a major reshuffle in Punjab back in November, more administrative control has been given to the chief secretary and the police chief who reportedly take orders directly from the PM secretariat, leaving Mr. Buzdar with a ‘ceremonial’ title of chief executive.
In the face of strong criticism of Mr. Buzdar for his ‘poor’ governance, especially the latest flour crisis in the province, the PTI government spokespersons at the Centre and Punjab — Firdous Ashiq Awan and Fayyazul Hasan Chohan — say the government has no plan to replace him (Buzdar).
“This week is very important. We will see if a standing order has been conveyed with regard to empowering our ministers and lawmakers. If not, then we will weigh other options we have,” said a senior PML-Q leader in a chat with Dawn on Sunday.
Replying to a question about the PML-Q’s ‘trust level’ in Mr. Buzdar, he said: “We are very much comfortable with CM Buzdar and want him to continue … but at the same time, we want full administrative share in the districts where we have a strong political base.”
To a question whether Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi was a ‘possible replacement’ of Mr. Buzdar and this had been conveyed to Prime Minister Imran Khan during the PTI-PML-Q talks, the PML-Q leader said: “We haven’t conveyed anything like this. What we want is redressal of our genuine concerns with regard to empowering our lawmakers and have us on board in the consultation process.”
To another question about the PML-N’s offer to Mr. Elahi to hold the reins of Punjab, he said: “We had this offer in the past after the 2018 elections, but we declined.” However, a senior PML-N leader told Dawn that the PML-Q leadership had been approached of late with an offer to join hands if the Q-League was considering parting ways with the PTI but so far there had not been any reply from it.
In its ‘final’ round of talks with the PTI delegation led by PM Khan’s close aide Jehangir Tareen, the PML-Q leaders led by MNAs Moonis Elahi and Tariq Bashir Cheema last week had warned that it might review its alliance with it (PTI) if their legitimate demands were not met in a week.
Talking to Dawn earlier, Moonis Elahi said: “The PTI has assured us of redressing our grievances within a week. In case the promises made to us are not met (this week) there will be no next round of talks (with PTI).”
In a tweet in response to an assertion that the PML-Q had complained about Mr. Buzdar, Mr. Moonis had also said: “We never complained about @UsmanAKBuzdar. If anything… we have always supported him. @ImranKhanPTI needs to put his house in order starting with people leaking fake news.”
The PTI in talks had agreed to empower the PML-Q’s ministers — two in Punjab and one at the Centre — besides giving the latter share in administrative powers in three districts — Gujrat, Chakwal and Bahawalpur and as many tehsils of Malikwal, Phalia, and Daska.
As a lobby in the PTI has also been active to join the ‘chorus’ from different quarters, including the elements in the establishment, to oust Mr. Buzdar for his ‘bad governance’, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan declared on Sunday: “CM Buzdar is going nowhere and will complete his five years term.”
She also indirectly targeted Federal Science Minister Fawad Chaudhry who had recently criticized Buzdar for his inability to govern. “Those in the party (PTI) criticizing Buzdar are in fact targeting PM Imran Khan,” she said.
Fawad Chaudhry had written a letter to the premier raising questions over the performance of Mr. Buzdar, complaining the “Punjab government is giving a bad name to the PTI due to its poor performance.”
In his letter to the PM, Mr. Chaudhry contended: “Each province shall, by law, establish a local government system and devolve political, administrative and financial responsibility, and authority to the elected representatives of the local governments. It is noted with great concern that provinces have been continuously violating Article 140A of the Constitution, and the grossest violation is the inequitable distribution of funds among the districts.”
He said non-compliance with Article 140A and inequitable distribution of funds to districts had caused disappointment and disillusionment among the people. “Strong federation demands an equitable division of resources among the provinces and to the district level. The Punjab government is being run in a way as it was run by the last Shahbaz Sharif regime,” he complained.
There is another group active in the Punjab PTI led by a politician who had heavily financed the party rallies in the past. The PTI is also facing the challenge to placate the concerns of other allies – the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) and Balochistan Awami Party (BAP).
Firdous Ashiq Awan said: “Soon good news will come from its allies and the PTI government will complete its term.”
Another logic Ms. Awan gave in Mr. Buzdar’s support was: “He does his work silently and does not roar like Maula Jat and Noori Nath (well known Punjabi film characters). This style is liked by the people of Punjab but he can’t do it.”