Punjab heats up as Tareen group takes centre stage

Published March 31, 2022
In this file photo, Jahangir Tareen speaks to the media in Lahore. — DawnNewsTV/File
In this file photo, Jahangir Tareen speaks to the media in Lahore. — DawnNewsTV/File

• Elahi moves to get support of maximum MPAs to protect chance at CMship
• Aleem refuses to vote for PML-Q leader

LAHORE: The dissident Jahangir Khan Tareen group of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has taken centre stage in the politics of Punjab once again as both the government and opposition are making a beeline for it, urging it to play a decisive role in the formation of the provincial government.

The politics of Punjab has seen multiple somersaults over the past week brought upon largely by the happenings in the capital, including the no-confidence resolution against Prime Minister Imran Khan, pitching of Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi with the chief ministership as bait to protect PM Khan, and MQM-P parting ways with the PTI and joining the opposition to dislodge the incumbent government in Islamabad.

However, the Jahangir Tareen group, standing strong with 17 MPAs and some eight MNAs, is again following a wait-and-see policy and not even holding full-fledged consultations to make a decision. A member of the group said they may gather in Lahore on Thursday (today), expecting Mr Tareen will return in a day or two to take a final decision after deliberation with all his supporters.

“The political drama in the Centre as well as Punjab is over,” he said, adding that both the government and Mr Elahi are contacting the group for support. On the other hand, opposition parties are also establishing contacts with the group to work out ‘feasible’ plans.

The source said the entire plan had been chalked out, beginning with the ouster of PM Khan and Elahi becoming chief executive of the largest province, but a ‘hasty’ decision manoeuvred by a member of the Chaudhry family dulled Mr Elahi’s prospects in the next set-up.

“We have already achieved our core demand of a minus-Buzdar Punjab government, and any additional incentive coming our way, either from the government or the opposition side, will be a bonus,” the group member explained.

On the other hand, Mr Elahi, who is also the PML-Q Punjab president, has geared up efforts to gather maximum number of MPAs around him to protect his chance at the chief ministership offered on a platter by the PM, abandoning his ‘assignment’ of placating MNAs to save Mr Khan in the National Assembly.

Read: Till realpolitik do us part

In the latest development, Mr Elahi met eight Punjab ministers and tasked them with liaising with maximum MPAs and luring them to vote for him, and also discussed the formation of the government in Punjab. The ministers included PML-Q’s Hafiz Ammar Yasir and PTI’s Raja Basharat of law and Chaudhry Zaheeruddin of public prosecution, who were previously PML-Q members but had on Mr Elahi’s instructions joined the ruling party ahead of the 2018 general elections. The other PTI ministers were Mian Aslam Iqbal, Mian Mahmoodur Rasheed, Raja Rashid Hafeez, Sibtain Khan, Murad Raas and MPA Wasim Khan Badozai.

Meanwhile, former senior minister Abdul Aleem Khan, another important player in Punjab politics who claims to have the support of dozens of MPAs, has made it clear that he would not vote for the ruling party candidate, Parvez Elahi, for the coveted slot of Punjab chief minister.

Considering himself as the most suitable candidate for the seat, Aleem had felt hurt over PM Khan’s indifference towards his decades-long efforts for the party. He had graciously resigned from the cabinet and after almost four months removed his ‘PTI affiliation’ from his Twitter account.

In the meantime, Aleem had also met PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif in London telling him that he had the support of 40 MPAs, including provincial ministers, and could be a strong player for the PML-N in Punjab. He has, however, so far failed to display that strength, as many of those who attended a luncheon he hosted a few weeks ago had said the ‘supporters’ he claimed to have did not actually belong to his group. Those ‘supporters’ were there to attend a lunch hosted by Aleem as a colleague in the Punjab government.

The former minister’s spokesman, Mian Khalid Mahmood, announced that Aleem had refused to vote for Parvez Elahi as chief executive of Punjab. In a statement, the spokesman said PM Khan had in the past used certain titles for Elahi that could not be repeated. “Why could Imran Khan not find anyone out of the 184 devoted PTI MPAs as a candidate for the chief minister?” he questioned.

Aleem claimed that every sincere PTI worker had an objection to Elahi’s nomination. “At such a crucial time, Khan sahib tried to save his government by nominating Parvez Elahi, whom he used to call thief and dacoit. Jahangir Tareen, too, had rendered many sacrifices for the PTI and we all pray for his speedy recovery,” he added, hinting at chances of going hand in hand with the Tareen group.

“The Aleem Khan group’s reply has been sent to Parvez Elahi about their clear-cut refusal to vote for the PML-Q leader,” the spokesman added.

Buzdar’s resignation

Interestingly, outgoing Punjab chief minister Usman Buzdar’s resignation is expected to reach the Governor House a little before official hours at 9am on Thursday (today), and is said to be accepted within minutes.

However, on Wednesday night, news was leaked from Islamabad and reported by the electronic media that the resignation had already reached Governor House, and Governor Chaudhry Sarwar was expected to accept it in the morning.

“The reason behind leaking the news was to make an attempt to keep Parvez Elahi under PM Khan’s control and prevent him from slipping to the opposition side in this fast-changing political scenario in Punjab,” a source in the Governor House told Dawn.

Governor Sarwar reached Lahore from Islamabad late on Wednesday.

Published in Dawn, March 31st, 2022

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