LAHORE: One day after a group of politicians — mostly belonging to south Punjab and led by sugar baron Jahangir Khan Tareen — mulled a proposition floated by the powers that be to set up a ‘parallel’ Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf to contain ousted prime minister Imran Khan’s party ahead of the next elections, the PTI-Nazriati (PTI-N) chairman offered them his party’s platform on Tuesday.
“I invite Mr Tareen for talks if he and his group members are interested in doing politics from the platform of PTI-N. My party’s doors are open for Tareen and other ‘clean politicians’ to achieve what we could not in Khan’s PTI which is a ‘one man’ show,” PTI-N chairman Akhtar Iqbal Dar said.
Mr Dar said he got PTI-N registered with the Election Commission before the 2018 elections after falling out with Imran Khan. “I quit PTI and launched PTI-N after opportunists took over PTI.
“Imran Khan does not respect anyone and takes all decisions on his own,” Mr Dar said. He was a classmate in college of the PML-N’s Saad Rafique and PTI’s Riaz Fatayana.
Akhtar Iqbal Dar, who hails from Sheikhupura, further said the PTI-N would become ‘relevant’ before the next elections.
The Tareen group held a huddle in Lahore on Monday in which disgruntled MNAs and former Punjab MPAs, who were disqualified after voting for the PML-N candidate in the chief minister’s election last year, participated.
Counterweight to PTI
The Tareen group has been given a go-ahead to focus on breaking the PTI, especially in the light of a possible disqualification of Imran Khan in any of the cases pending against him.
A parallel platform would have all the support of the establishment to dent the PTI.
Former Punjab minister Ajmal Cheema, who attended Tareen’s huddle, told Dawn on Tuesday that the meeting discussed the political situation in the country and agreed to make the group’s strategy in keeping with the rapidly changing scenario.
Asked if the Tareen group was considering doing politics from the PTI-N platform to counter the PTI in next elections, Cheema said: “All options are open, but the final decision rests with Mr Tareen.”
He further said currently the group was an ally of the PML-N and would make any other decision at an “appropriate time”.
Imran Khan’s disqualification in any of the cases he is facing may make the Tareen group more relevant as a force to weaken the PTI, members of the group believe. “Imran’s disqualification will give us immense pleasure. It will be the happiest day for us,” Ajmal Cheema said. “The PTI chief is himself responsible for what he and his party are facing today. His ego and one-man show have landed him in a blind alley.”
Mr Tareen, who was once the most trusted lieutenant of Imran Khan and helped the PTI form government in Punjab in 2018, fell out with him after the latter allowed the Federal Investigation Agency to lay hands on him (Tareen) in the sugar scam case in early 2021.
Later, Jahangir Tareen’s group of 25 MPAs was instrumental in toppling the PTI-led Punjab government. Raja Riaz, who is Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly, is leading the PTI’s disgruntled members in the lower house. He too belongs to the Tareen group, which enjoys an open backing of the establishment.
Published in Dawn, March 29th, 2023
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