PM Khan considering Raja Basharat as CM to preempt vote of no confidence in Punjab

Raja Basharat favourite to become CM Punjab: Sources 

LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: Law Minister Punjab, Raja Basharat is being considered as the new Chief Minister of Punjab to preempt a vote of no confidence in the Punjab Assembly, according to sources privy to this matter. 

Well placed PTI leaders claim that after Hafeez Sheikh’s defeat in Islamabad’s Senate elections (despite the PTI and it’s allies having a majority of 18 MNAs), the party is undergoing a lot of soul searching in order to deduce the reasons for this unexpected defeat. 

One reason which most political pundits agree on is Chief Minister Usman Buzdar’s abysmal performance in Punjab. 

With a population of 100 million, (half of Pakistan) and a citizenry used to dynamic chief ministers like Mian Shehbaz Sharif and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, Imran Khan’s ‘Wasim Akram Plus’ failed to deliver in the province which had seen unprecedented growth. 

Die-hard PTI loyalists have complained that Punjab was almost orphaned with such a weak Chief Minister who could only establish a bare minimum presence. 

Coupled with allegations of corruption ranging from shady liquor licences, tenebrous helicopter leases, and infighting within the Buzdar family on how to share the newly acquired wealth, Usman Buzdar lost the plot with Imran Khan’s accountability drive. 

Prime Minister Imran Khan had himself said six months ago, that the ministers who wouldn’t perform would be relieved of their duties, and that the time for learning was over. 

 More worrying for PM Khan is that the value of a PTI ticket in Punjab is eroding at a rapid pace. Yousaf Raza Gilani’s victory in the Islamabad Senate elections has shown that anywhere between 2 and 3 dozen PTI and allied MNAs would not vote for the PTI if they are given the safety of a secret ballot and/or the assurance of a PDM ticket for the next elections. 

Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, Usman Buzdar and Raja Basharat. Source: File.

Swallowing the bitter pill of defeat in Islamabad, rational voices within the PTI are calling for the appointment of Raja Basharat as Chief Minister Punjab in order to strengthen the party before the next elections. 

Earlier, there were reports which suggested that Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi was being considered as PTI’s candidate for Chief Minister Punjab, however, it has emerged that the core base of PTI would not accept the Chaudhrys complete dominion over Punjab, especially since the PML-Q only has 10 MPAs compared to PTI’s 181 MPAs. 

Raja Basharat with Pervaiz Elahi. Source: File.

Some political pundits claimed that if PTI did not support Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi’s candidature then there was a possibility that the PML-Q would jump ship to the PDM, removing PTI’s majority in the Punjab Assembly however, sources within the PML-N confirmed that the party would never align with Pervaiz Elahi, especially in these circumstances. 

Thus, Raja Basharat has become the ideal replacement for Usman Buzdar, not only because he enjoys the support of PTI’s core fanbase but also because he is the only PTI politician in Punjab who can ensure the present and future electoral support from the Chaudhrys of Gujrat due to a decades-old political and personal relationship. 

Sources privy to these matters claim that Pervaiz Elahi and Raja Basharat have enjoyed extremely friendly terms, even after the latter formally joined Imran Khan’s struggle to build a Naya Pakistan. 

In an interview after the 2018 elections, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi had said that Raja Basharat was his “favourite” individual in the Punjab Assembly, reflecting the intensity of the relationship between the Chaudhrys of Gujrat and the Rajas of Dhamial. 

But while NAB has investigated the Chaudhrys and Imran Khan himself has used derogatory language against Pervaiz Elahi in the past, Raja Basharat enjoys a clean reputation without a single allegation of corruption in a 40 year political career. 

PTI leaders in Punjab claim that a strong, established and well-grounded personality like Raja Basharat as CM Punjab would significantly increase PTI’s chances of winning the next elections especially in Punjab where astute politicians align themselves based on a significant understanding of the political climate. 

They also claim that Hafeez Sheikh might have won if significant support to disgruntled PTI MNAs from Punjab was given by Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, however, they claim that Usman Buzdar does not have the intellectual depth to manoeuvre the old guard in Punjab which has always, in one way or the other, enjoyed the fruits of power. 

As a legislator as well as an administrator, Raja Basharat has a pristine record. In the previous session of the Punjab Assembly, Raja Basharat presented 9 Ordinances and 5 Bills, including the Punjab Local Government (Amendment) Ordinance and the Lahore Central Business District Development Authority Ordinance. 

Raja Basharat enjoys strong public support in Rawalpindi. Source: File.

Administration wise, Raja Basharat has also proved his mettle in various ministries and has been widely regarded as the most efficient minister in the Punjab government, albeit sources claim that Raja Basharat could have performed even better if he was not handicapped by an amateur Chief Minister who was still learning on the go. 

However, the strongest reason why Raja Basharat is emerging as the frontrunner to replace Usman Buzdar is not because of his political acumen or administrative prowess but because Raja Basharat has fully embraced Imran Khan’s ideology of change and is the only man in Punjab who is capable of preparing the PTI for the next elections, which as recent events suggest, might be sooner than 2023. 

A source close to Usman Buzdar strongly denied any change taking place and said that such rumours had sprung up before but Imran Khan always stood by Buzdar, however, the word in the PM Secretariat suggests that the decision has already been made. 

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