PTI leader Abdul Aleem Khan, a former Punjab minister and a close aide of Prime Minister Imran Khan, announced on Monday that he would be joining the group of lawmakers led by estranged party leader Jahangir Khan Tareen.
His announcement came after members of the group converged at Tareen's Lahore residence as the opposition charged ahead with its plans to table a no-confidence motion against the government.
Provincial ministers Nauman Langrial, Ajmal Cheema as well as MPAs Khurram Leghari, Abdul Hai Dasti, Lala Tahir Randhawa, Salman Naeem, Aslam Bharwana, Saeed Nawani, Zawar Hussain, Bilal Warraich, Amin Chaudry, Qasim Langah were also among the participants.
In his media talk, Khan stated that Tareen — who is currently in London seeking medical treatment — had played a massive part in the PTI's rise to power.
He said that Tareen was currently not in the best of health, adding that the group had held a meeting at his residence to send the message that he had not been "forgotten".
He reiterated that Tareen had played a crucial role in the history of the party, and lamented the fact that he was later sidelined.
"Many people [within the party] do not understand why this happened. All those people who worked for Naya Pakistan alongside the prime minister, why were they ignored? There is no answer for this," he said.
"Other people surround the leader when governments are formed," he said, adding that "committed and loyal" workers were pushed to the side.
He said that he would not have been disheartened if the party's popularity had been growing, but said that there were growing concerns among party workers and loyalists about the government's performance in Punjab.
"All of us who were part of the tehreek and were sincere. Let us all come together on one platform," he said. He also stated that he had met more than 40 MPAs during the last four days, all of whom had expressed concerns over Punjab's governance.
"We will try to unite all the groups within PTI," he said, adding that they felt "sad" when they saw their struggle going in vain.
"PTI does not belong to one individual. It belongs to all of us," Khan said.
The ex-minister said that the group would work until the end to strengthen the PTI, calling on all groups within the party to come together.
Khan made no mention of the no-confidence motion against the prime minister, but was unable to escape questions from reporters who asked him whether the group was with the government or against it.
"If a no-trust motion is moved, we will make a decision together," he said.
'Have some patience'
Earlier, Punjab chief minister’s former adviser, Awn Chaudry, who was also among the attendees, was hounded by reporters as he made his way inside Tareen's residence.
Speaking to reporters camped outside, Chaudry asked them to "let some of the suspense remain", adding that whatever will happen will be for the best.
"Are you with the opposition or with the government?" asked one journalist.
"Whatever will happen will be for the best," he reiterated with a smile. He added that the members of the group would welcome Aleem Khan, saying that he was their "brother".
"Is (Punjab chief minister Usman) Buzdar going or staying?" asked another reporter.
"Have some patience. Watch and see what will happen," he said, moving inside.
Sindh governor meets Khan
Khan's announcement also propelled PM Imran to send Sindh Governor Imran Ismail to meet with the ex-Punjab minister.
Speaking to the media after the meeting, Ismail confirmed that he was in Lahore on the directives of the prime minister and would convey the group's "requests, recommendations and reservations" to PM Imran.
"My team and I are leaving for Islamabad and will communicate to the prime minister their (Tareen group) reservations and requests," he said.
He said the group's reservations mainly pertained to the Punjab government and addressing them would work in the PTI's favour. The Sindh governor said that the premier would have the final say in the matter, but appeared confident that the concerns would be addressed.
When a reporter asked how long this process would take, he said: "Everything will be completed in a day or two".
Ismail further asserted that Khan and Tareen were still the prime minister's "soldiers and aides", just like they were 10 years ago.
"I want to clear one thing," he continued, adding that the PTI was "standing strong in Punjab and the centre".
"Tomorrow, you will see that Aleem Khan, Jahangir Tareen, their associates and those contacting them, all of us will be together".
Earlier, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry had asserted while speaking to the media that Tareen and Khan were still an integral part of the ruling PTI.
"They are a part of our party," he said, adding that internal politics within a party was a common occurrence.
"They are doing their politics and have relations with several of our MPAs [...] Aleem Khan and Tareen have close relations with PM Imran," he said, reiterating that internal party politics was common.
PML-N contacts Tareen group
The meeting of the Tareen group comes as the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), an alliance of opposition parties, is in the process of finalising a no-confidence motion against the prime minister, claiming to have the support of enough lawmakers in the parliament to make the ouster a success.
Last month, the PML-N had confirmed the party was in touch with the disgruntled group to seek its support to oust the government. At the same time, the group had also met at the residence of PML-Q leaders, who are a key ally of the PTI government in Punjab and centre.
Speaking to reporters at the time, Tareen said the purported no-confidence motion had not been tabled yet and it was not clear whether it would be at all.
To a question about any contacts with the opposition, he said the group had gathered after a long time and it was yet to be seen how it should play its role in the current political scenario.
He further maintained political leaders stayed in touch with each other, adding the group would hold more huddles to discuss their future strategy.
Tareen said they also talked about inflation during the meeting, but nothing specific about the no-confidence motion. “It is premature to discuss this issue,” he had said, urging the premier to provide relief to the masses.
Subsequently, it was reported that PM Imran reached out to Tareen in what appeared to be a bid to ensure he hadn’t lost his old friend to the opposition.