Raja Basharat: The New Punjab CM?

Hamza Azhar Salam believes CM Buzdar is likely to resign in light of a NAB inquiry

Raja Basharat: The New Punjab CM?
Reliable sources are claiming that Prime Minister Imran Khan is ready to take a U-turn on Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, reiterating his previous statements claiming that good leaders never shy away from changing decisions.

Termed as Wasim Akram plus affectionately by PTI supporters and satirically by critics, Usman Buzdar has visibly failed to deliver on the promise of change highlighted in PTI’s manifesto.

The chief minister has also found himself in the bad books of the real decision-makers of the country, which is evident by the fact that NAB, the accountability watchdog which is frequently used for political engineering, has not only accused the gentleman of illegally awarding a liquor license to a dubious hotel but also seems intent to follow up on this case.

Another glaring hint reflecting a big change in Punjab is that the former Director-General of the Excise Department, Akram Ashraf Gondal who issued the license has agreed to become a witness against Usman Buzdar in the liquor case.
Considered to be the trouble shooter in the Punjab who can handle any situation, Raja Basharat also enjoys tacit support from the Chaudhrys of Gujrat due to a decade-old political alliance

Previously, the Punjab government tried to deflect responsibility towards the Excise Department which ultimately issued the license but sources privy to these matters claim there was a huge tussle between CM office and the department, with the former exerting various pressures on the latter to issue a license to the little-known Unicorn Prestige Limited, which is still not operational and does not fulfil the criteria of having an L2 liquor license.

It has been claimed that Ameer Taimoor Buzdar, a senior police official who is Usman Buzdar’s uncle received Rs50 million as bribe to issue this license.

While this cannot be ascertained, it can be confirmed that last year, Usman Buzdar’s younger brother, Ayub Buzdar levelled allegations of corruption and land grabbing against his own uncle Taimoor Buzdar, showing us that corruption was rife in the Buzdar family.

Despite his unimpressive performance, Prime Minister Imran Khan has shown that he is a survivor. He has gone through two cabinet reshuffles, sacrificed his closest political allies, including Jahangir Khan Tareen and seems comfortable enough to move towards a change in the Punjab to rid himself of the Buzdar baggage.

If it was only about corruption, perhaps Buzdar could have been salvaged one way or the other, but analysts believe that Buzdar’s incompetence proved to be his biggest crime.

Loyalty and compliance are worth something when coupled with abilities to perform. Unfortunately for the PTI, CM Usman Buzdar has been the most glaring example of incompetence and mismanagement of the PTI government.

Speculations abound that Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi is a firm candidate in the race for becoming CM Punjab but with 10 seats, it would take nothing less than a miracle for the Chaudhrys of Gujrat to reclaim the Chief Minister House.

Sources close to the Chaudhrys claim that PML-N is considering supporting Pervaiz Elahi’s nomination based on prior understandings which went beyond a change in the Punjab but it seems that Mian Nawaz Sharif has refused to be part of any political engineering process which makes this scenario highly unlikely.

Aleem Khan could have been a strong candidate but due to a NAB case going on at the moment, he seems out of the race.

Mian Aslam Iqbal, the current Minister for Industries, Commerce and Investment in the Punjab is also in the race. He is an old PTI stalwart, has a relatively clean reputation but does not enjoy much support in the quarters which are paramount in these decisions.

Yawar Abbas Bukhari, the cousin of prime minister’s blue-eyed Zulfi Bukhari has a decent claim but the multiple human trafficking and arms dealing allegations surrounding the family, as well as the important position enjoyed by Zulfi discounts Yawar as a serious candidate. The PTI would not like the tales of the Bukhari family’s fortunes to further mar its reputation before the next elections.

Due to these dynamics, the frontrunner at this time seems to be someone who already enjoys almost equivalent power of the chief minister and has been the de-facto ruler of the Punjab ever since PTI came into power.

Raja Basharat, the Minister for Law, Parliamentary Affairs, Bait-ul-Maal and Social Welfare has met Prime Minister Imran Khan twice for one on one meetings in the previous month.

Sources claim that the prime minister has expressed satisfaction over Basharat’s performance and hinted towards elevating him to Punjab government’s top slot.

In a political career spanning almost 40 years, Raja Basharat has cultivated and nurtured relationships within important quarters and has made sure that he gets a slice of power, regardless of who forms the government.

Since 2018, Basharat has achieved the support of various lawyers’ organisations including the High Court Bar to which his law ministry has issued hundreds of millions of rupees.

Considered to be the trouble shooter in the Punjab who can handle any situation, Raja Basharat also enjoys tacit support from the Chaudhrys of Gujrat due to a decade-old political alliance.

If Pervaiz Elahi will step out of the race for anyone, it will be Raja Basharat according to sources privy to these developments.

It seems that Usman Buzdar will resign claiming that he will come back after the NAB enquiry. Raja Basharat is likely to become the new CM in the coming weeks with the promise to ensure a victory in Punjab in the 2023 elections.