LAHORE: As the PPP steps up its efforts to woo a group of south Punjab politicians, led by Jahangir Khan Tareen, the PML-N on Tuesday sent its own emissary to meet Mr Tareen with assurances that their “alliance with the Tareen group will remain intact”.

The visit of Suleman Shehbaz, his maiden political assignment, to the residence of the estranged PTI leader came after reports that the PML-N had refused to allot tickets to ‘electables’ ahead of the next general elections in light of their defeats at the hands of the PTI in the July by-polls.

After this snub, over three dozen politicians, associated with Mr Tareen, started weighing options to secure their political future. Two options were mulled over — formation of a new political party and going to the PPP which is overly active in south Punjab to bolster ranks.

PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari has reportedly been in contact with the Tareen group members to woo them with the alleged help of the establishment. It may be mentioned here that these electables are expected to play a significant role in the formation of the next set-up.

Aun Chaudhry says Tareen group to retain election alliance with PML-N

‘First political assignment’

However, despite these developments, the Tareen group is an ally of the PML-N in the Centre. But in a pre-emptive attempt to counter PPP overtures, Suleman Shehbaz got his first political assignment — to woo Mr Tareen.

“Mr Suleman Shehbaz relayed that PML-N wants the alliance between the two to continue and if there are any issues then these should be brought forth,” a PML-N insider told Dawn. He said Suleman Shehbaz also assured Mr Tareen on the behalf of the prime minister that their grievances would be addressed.

During the meeting, Prime Minister’s Special Assistant Aun Chaudhry was also present. Mr Chaudhry told Dawn that the meeting between Suleman Shehbaz and Jahangir Khan Tareen was a ‘gesture of goodwill’.

He said political matters, especially Punjab, were discussed and both sides agreed to remain allies and go to the next polls with mutual understanding.

Mr Chaudhry claimed that the PML-N had not refused tickets to the Tareen group. “It is very much likely that the Tareen group will go along with PML-N in future elections,” Mr Chaudhry said. As per the PM’s aide, Mr Tareen advised Suleman Shehbaz to formally join politics to help his father.

It may be noted here that a debate has been ongoing in the PML-N about the future role of Suleman Shehbaz in the party. Since Hamza Shehbaz is relatively ‘inactive’ in party affairs, PM Shehbaz Sharif should field his younger son, some in the PML-N suggest.

“After Maryam Nawaz’s elevation to the senior vice president post, the Shehbaz group thinks that fielding Suleman Shehbaz would help the premier maintain his grip on the party in Punjab to an extent,” a party insider said.

Published in Dawn, January 11th, 2023

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