LAHORE: Members of the dissident Jahangir Tareen group in the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) appear confident they will have their way after securing guarantees that the chief minister of Punjab will be removed from office.

Sources in the group told Dawn that Prime Minister Imran Khan had all but “agreed” to accept the demands of the dissident group, but has sought more time to remove Chief Minister Usman Buzdar in order to “avert the impression of being blackmailed”.

Shaken by a no-confidence motion against the premier, the PTI government is on a mission to mend ways with party dissidents. A senior delegation of government members met the Jahangir Tareen group and asked them to explain their concerns and demands in detail.

“The Tareen group remains adamant over the removal of Usman Buzdar and explained their concerns with regards to victimisation, lukewarm response from Chief Minister Office to their problems and the bureaucracy’s attitude towards their group members,” a source in the Tareen group told Dawn.

A senior party leader in Punjab told Dawn the prime minister had agreed to remove CM Buzdar but wanted the dissident group to wait for a while, because an immediate acceptance of the demand would be exploited by the opposition as if “Imran Khan has bowed down to dissidents’ blackmail”.

The PTI government had also conveyed that the new chief minister would be from PTI parliamentarians, the senior party leader said, adding that the Tareen group assured the government team that it did not want to leave the party until it would be compelled to do so.

Problems being resolved

Meanwhile, key Tareen group member Lala Tahir Randhawa said a government team led by cabinet minister Murad Raas had called on the group and agreed to resolve problems that could be addressed through the administration.

Since the government team had been given two days to resolve the parliamentarians’ issue, Mr Randhawa said a response had started to come, as deputy commissioners, district police officers and other government officials were calling all group members to address their problems.

He said that actions taken to victimise him and provincial minister Ajmal Cheema were also being undone. “The government team will return with its problems’ resolution report and the group will meet on Wednesday to take a final decision,” he added.

Mr Randhawa asserted that the group’s main demand was “minus-Buzdar” because the incumbent chief minister had ruined the governance system in the country. “Another large group of MPAs have also contacted the Tareen group and expressed support for its demand of removing Buzdar from Punjab’s chief ministership,” Mr Randhawa revealed.

Answering a question about PTI dissident and former senior minister Abdul Aleem Khan’s conduct with the group after visiting it at Jahangir Tareen’s residence, Mr Randhawa said Aleem Khan did come and a five-member committee was constituted — including Mr Randhawa, Nauman Langrial, Abdul Hayee Dasti and Ajmal Cheema — to coordinate with Aleem Khan. However, Aleem Khan did not call the committee and he alone met Sindh Governor Imran Ismail, who visited him on the instructions of the prime minister.

Sources said the government had conveyed to the Tareen group that CM Buzdar would be replaced by another senior leader within the party and four names have started doing the rounds in the PTI parliamentarians’ circle, including those of provincial minister Raja Yasir Humayun, Murad Raas, Mian Aslam Iqbal and Asif Nakai.

Tareen group members told Dawn that 13 of their 17 MPAs were elected as independents and later joined the party. “Even if the Tareen group decided to vote against PM Imran Khan in the centre and CM Buzdar in Punjab, the government would not be able to de-seat them because they were not elected on PTI tickets,” Mr Randhawa told Dawn.

Tareen ‘held party together’

Meanwhile, Jahangir Tareen’s spokesman Awn Chaudhry said some eight MNAs were standing with the group and take a decision about supporting or not supporting the government in the opposition’s no-confidence motion.

“I was personally disturbed when I saw that several MNAs stood against the party,” he said and added that it all happened because PM Khan pushed away Jahangir Tareen, who was actually keeping all MNAs intact with the party.

“Mr Tareen used to help the prime minister in difficult times and resolve party parliamentarians’ problems,” he said and asked whether the PTI should not hold the premier’s political aides accountable for all this mess.

Answering a question whether Jahangir Tareen could enter into any deal with the PML-N, he said he could not comment on his leader’s behalf. “Whatever Jahangir Tareen will decide, his whole group will go along his decision,” he asserted.

Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2022

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