SITUATIONER: Proposal about Tareen’s return stirs debate in PTI

Published January 29, 2021
Jehangir Tareen, the former secretary general of the PTI, became estranged from party leader Imran Khan after he was named in the sugar scam and left for London. — AP/File
Jehangir Tareen, the former secretary general of the PTI, became estranged from party leader Imran Khan after he was named in the sugar scam and left for London. — AP/File

RULING party MNA Raja Riaz’s suggestion to the leadership to bring back Jahangir Khan Tareen to steer the coming Senate elections against the opposition PML-N in Punjab has raised eyebrows within the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).

Mr Riaz seems to be not a solitary but a representative voice of, though, a minority segment in the ruling party that thinks the PML-N has a number of “investors”, who will be playing a big role in buying loyalties of MPAs to maneuver the Senate elections. The PML-N’s hard stance of not accepting the open vote suggestion indicates its intentions.

While conversation with several PTI leaders suggests that most party leaders are opposed to the idea of Mr Tareen’s return to the party until he comes clean of the charges of money laundering and sugar fraud levelled in the investigation report of the Federal Investigation Agency.

“All PTI ranks led by Imran Khan have been making hue and cry for the past over two decades that only honesty, transparency and fair play will be acceptable in the party,” a senior party leader said.

Some leaders think he may play a crucial role in ensuring PTI victory in Senate polls in Punjab

Though most of the party leaders and potential Senate election candidates believe that Mr Riaz’s suggestion about Mr Tareen was his personal opinion and has nothing to do with the party’s ongoing discussions on the Senate elections, Mr Riaz asserts that Prime Minister Khan acknowledged his point of view and agreed that the party might need its “experienced team” to successfully sail through the Senate polls.

Saying most party men acknowledge Mr Tareen’s sharp political acumen and skills, Mr Riaz insists, “the PTI needs a sharp party organiser, who may defeat the evil designs of many investors in the ranks of PML-N, who may maneuver the Senate polls in Punjab”.

Mr Tareen has reportedly made a telephonic contact with Mr Riaz on Thursday to thank him for mentioning him in the meeting of the ruling party’s parliamentary party.

The former secretary general of the PTI became estranged from party leader Imran Khan after he was named in the sugar scam and left for London. He returned to Pakistan after spending five months in London in November last year.

Mr Riaz’s suggestion about Mr Tareen has also bolstered a discussion within the party about the Senate elections as he further suggested entrusting Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, former health minister Amir Kayani and Ejaz Chaudhry with the task to use their influence on the MPAs for whom they campaigned and ensured party tickets.

“Only these benefactors of MPAs in Punjab can control them to follow party instructions in the current tough times,” Mr Riaz explained his mind to Imran Khan.

Mr Riaz has opened a discussion about timely party decision on candidatures as only two weeks are in hand to complete the candidatures and strategies for the Senate elections and disgruntled and dissenting voices have also emerged from Punjab.

A fairly large group of disgruntled MPAs in the province, who are annoyed about Chief Minister Usman Buzdar’s performance, have come up on record to demand that at least one of them be picked for the Senate election ticket of the party or they will dent the party’s endeavours in the elections either by not going to poll their all important votes or resigning from their Punjab Assembly membership ahead of the Senate elections.

As things are opening and sunlight is falling on the Senate elections, the party ranks, particularly those who are directly interested in the elections, want a robust discussion and selection of candidates at the earliest. “If Senate elections are held in the first week of March, then everything including the party candidates’ selection needs to be finalised by Feb 15, which is round the corner,” a party leader said.

Another party leader came up with the opinion that Imran Khan knew every party leader’s “ins and outs” and strengths and weaknesses and could decide well on his own who should be fielded in the Senate polls to carry forward the party interest.

“Since each party candidate will need to bag at least 47 votes to get elected to the upper house from Punjab, no party leader will have guts to look for making any individual move and violate party leadership decision,” a party leader and potential candidate said.

Mr Riaz has clarified that he is not a candidate for the Senate elections for being an MNA. Names of Special Assistant to the PM on Accountability Shahzad Akbar, SAPM Zulfi Bukhari, party’s chief organiser Saifullah Niazi, Ejaz Chaudhry, a couple of other special assistants to the PM and the party’s women leaders like Dr Zarqa Soharwardi and Tanzeela Imran are making rounds in the media as aspirants for the party ticket for the Senate polls.

“All candidates’ names are media speculations. No list is final until Prime Minister Imran Khan finalises the list and makes it public by asking potential candidates to file their nomination papers,” said Mr Niazi. He, however, refused to talk about Mr Tareen’s return to the party, saying, “I don’t want to talk about the party’s internal affairs”.

Published in Dawn, January 29th, 2021

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