LAHORE: As the gulf between the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s estranged leader Jahangir Khan Tareen and his once close friend and PTI chairman Imran Khan widens over the ongoing sugar scam probe, some of the MNAs and MPAs in Mr Tareen’s camp on Saturday proposed resigning from the assemblies.
However, the idea floated during a meeting held at Mr Tareen’s residence was immediately shot down by a majority of the legislators.
According to sources, the few among the legislators, who were in favour of tendering resignations, had floated the idea if Prime Minister Khan refused to give the Tareen-led group an audience to thrash out the “injustices” being committed against the estranged leader.
Some 30 party parliamentarians accompanied Mr Tareen to the special court hearing banking offences case and returned to his residence with him. At the gathering held at Mr Tareen’s residence, the PTI parliamentarians decided to strengthen their narrative to secure a meeting with Mr Khan where they could explain that Mr Tareen was being victimised at the behest of non-elected people.
Imran insists law will take its course against sugar mafia
As many as PTI’s 31 MNAs and MPAs have signed the request letter sent to the prime minister for the meeting and are waiting for the latter’s response.
On Friday, Prime Minister Khan while talking to reporters in Sargodha said he was ready to meet and listen to the grievances (about Mr Tareen) of party’s MNAs and MPAs, but in the same breath added that sugar price was increased by Rs26 per kilogram which robbed the nation of Rs130 billion. Since it was the government’s job to protect the interests of people, he said, the government conducted an inquiry through the FIA that revealed that a cartel of sugar mills was fleecing the masses and evading taxes.
“We can still listen to the PTI MNAs and MPAs’ grievances but law of the land will be upheld at any cost,” the prime minister asserted.
Meanwhile, the parliamentarians showing solidarity with Mr Tareen suggested they needed to increase their strength to convey a strong message to the government. It is reliably learnt that Mr Tareen has decided to hold an iftar dinner for the party lawmakers on his next appearance at the sessions court on April 22.
In a significant move to increase his political connections among the party parliamentarians, Mr Tareen went to the residence of PTI MPA Khurram Ijaz Chattha in Muridke and offered his condolences on the death of Mr Chattha’s paternal uncle. He also met MPA Umer Aftab Dhilon, whose maternal uncle recently passed away. Mr Tareen was accompanied by Punjab Agriculture Minister Malik Nauman Ahmad Langrial, Adviser to the Chief Minister Faisal Hayat Jabwana and MPAs Tahir Randhawa and Zawar Warraich.
On the other hand, Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar told media persons that Mr Tareen was facing cases in courts and his friends in party were accompanying him only to express their sympathies and solidarity. When senior minister Abdul Aleem Khan was facing cases in the NAB and courts, his sympathisers also used to go with him, he said.
“All politicians have their relationships within the party and they do stand by them and express their solidarity in trying times. Things will settle down soon,” he said.
Earlier, Jahangir Tareen said the cases against him did not even carry the allegations of having any link to sugar ‘mafia’ or a role in the increasing price of the commodity but he had been subjected to a targeted campaign of character assassination.
He was speaking to reporters outside the judicial complex after attending hearing of his pre-arrest bail in one of the FIRs before a special court for banking offences. His son Ali Tareen also appeared before the court.
At least 29 members of the National and Punjab assemblies belonging to the government and advisers to the chief minister accompanied Mr Tareen to the court.
Asked about those involved in the campaign against him, the sugar mogul said he would expose the hands behind the malicious campaign against him. He said the business community knew that he was a clean and reputable businessman.
“I was a farmer and then a businessman well before joining politics,” he said, dispelling an impression that he established his business after coming into politics.
Raja Riaz, an MNA from Faisalabad, demanded justice from Prime Minister Imran Khan for Tareen. He said they had been showing grace and were still standing under the flag of the PTI. He claimed that Mr Tareen had been given unfair treatment.
Mr Riaz threatened the prime minister to change his approach or they would be forced to take a step on their own. “We are making last humble request in the ‘Riasat-i-Madina’ that we want nothing but justice,” he said.
Earlier, the court extended the interim pre-arrest bails of Mr Tareen and his son till May 3.
Mr Tareen’s counsel Salman Safdar complained to the court that the FIA sent summons to his client at the eleventh hour. He said last time the agency summoned Tareen and his son on one-day notice.
An official of the FIA told the court that the suspects had not furnished the required data.
Tareen’s counsel said a reply would be submitted to the agency by Monday.
Published in Dawn, April 18th, 2021