Usman Buzdar will have to do a lot to outperform Shehbaz Sharif, Pervaiz Elahi
In Pakistan’s politics, Punjab is as important as the heart to the human body.
Any political party desirous of ruling the country must have a strong standing in this province because of its number of seats, allocated on the basis of population.
Parties devoid of support in this province stay 'quarantined’ for decades in their respective regions, no matter how many other factors go in their favour.
The PTI won 54 NA seats out of total 141 and 181 provincial assembly seats from Punjab out of total 371 in 2018 elections. The credit for this performance goes to Imran Khan, a cricketer-turned-politician.
Sardar Usman Khan Buzdar, chief minister for the last couple of years, had played no role in the PTI’s win. Though the son of a senior legislator, he was an ordinary MPA from PP-286 (Dera Ghazi Khan), picked for this role by the PTI chairman. It is said that the prime minister's wife - Bushra Bibi - supports Mr Buzdar for this role.
Now the role of Mr Buzdar is more important compared to any other leader of the ruling party.
The results of the next elections – whenever they are held – will depend on the chief minister’s performance. If people are satisfied with his performance, they will support the PTI for a second time. Otherwise, it will sit on opposition benches, leaving the treasury for the new winner.
Since the PML-N has ruled this province for long and during its tenures has done a lot for the province, it stands a better chance of returning to power – provided other invisible factors did not play a role.
To be able to retain power for a second time the PTI will have to outperform the PML-N, which will not be an easy task.
Realistically speaking, Mr Buzdar is not as efficient as was his predecessor Shehbaz Sharif, who served as chief minister for three terms. Elected as PML-N president after the disqualification of his elder brother Nawaz Sharif as prime minister and party chieftainship by court, Shehbaz is workaholic and can handle media. He can answer political and other questions well.
The PTI chief minister's performance should also be better than Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi's.
But Buzdar is still learning the statecraft. He is yet to slough off his shyness and have good relations with the media. Without establishing his capabilities through media, his image among masses will not improve.
But, it appears, he is still not giving the media the kind of importance it deserves and use it to improve his image.
About a week ago he cancelled an interview with an important TV channel, for which an hour’s slot had been fixed. It is generally believed that he was not in a position to come up with satisfactory answers to questions, although they had been submitted in advance.
A politician denying himself an hour of TV coverage – unbelievable. But Mr Buzdar knows better what had prompted him to cancel the interview.
He relies mostly on the handouts issued by the information department, crammed with sympathizers of the previous rulers.
However, lately, he has started behaving like chief minister and taking up important projects. He is issuing statements that can benefit his party in future. He said recently that his government started work on 13 Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and Industrial Estates in just two years, while the previous governments established only three SEZs in 73 years.
He said the past rulers did nothing except for embarking on showy projects to attain cheap popularity. He asserted that economic zones and industrial estates were being established on more than 10,000 acres of land. He said that Allama Iqbal Industrial City would be established in Faisalabad over more than 3,000 acres of land and the project would ensure direct employment opportunities to 300,000 people. Industrial city, he said, would host more than 550 industrial units and the project would prove to be a game-changer.
He has also approved the establishment of River Ravi Front Authority for developing a most modern city in the north of Lahore.
According to reports, this authority would work for developing a new city over an area of more than 100,000 acres. The new city will help to overcome the problems of congested traffic, water and environment in Lahore city. A large lake and free barrages will also be built in the new city.
The CM has directed the department concerned to start work on the Greater Thal Canal Project to irrigate the barren lands of Layyah, Bhakkar, Jhang, Muzaffargarh and Khushab.
Presiding over a meeting at his office, the chief minister directed that work on the canal system's restoration should be expedited as it would help in increasing agricultural productivity. He further directed that the land acquisition process should be completed on priority basis.
CM Buzdar also reiterated his resolve of changing corrupt and traditional system through departmental reforms.
Observers say that the chief minister would have to work day and night to win public support for his party. He will have to visit all districts and tehsils to familiarise himself with the problems of all regions and take steps required to redress them. The areas where the PTI doesn't have enough following should be given top priority.
Sardar Buzdar should also choose some constituencies outside Dera Ghazi Khan for his next election. At least one of them should be in Lahore, preferably the one Shehbaz Sharif is a candidate from. He should also think of contesting against some important PPP leaders. Such an exercise will provide him with an opportunity to gauge his popularity in areas outside his home constituency.
Despite pressure being mounted by opposition parties, there is little chance of next elections being held in the foreseeable future. Therefore, Mr Buzdar has enough time at his disposal to popularize himself and the PTI.