With two decades of experience under his belt, Jahangir Khan Tareen (JKT) is no newbie to the intricacies of Pakistan’s domestic politics. The sugar baron, once a close aide of PTI founder Imran Khan, will be contesting the 2024 general elections with a party he founded just last year — the Istehkam-i-Pakistan Party (IPP).
During his election campaign, Tareen has vowed to fulfil the promise of introducing ‘Naya Pakistan’ — the popular slogan of his former party, the PTI.
He is known as one of the wealthiest men in politics, owning thousands of acres of farmland, a private plane — that Imran was criticised for travelling in — and running some of the largest sugar mills in the country.
Known to have funded many of the PTI’s protests and anti-government rallies before the party came into power, Tareen is viewed as someone who can buy influence.
Start in politics
Tareen had forayed into politics in 2002 when he was elected to the National Assembly on a Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) ticket. The Forman Christian College alumnus had served as an adviser to former Punjab chief minister Chaudhry Parvez Elahi on agriculture and social sector initiatives.
In 2004, he was inducted into the federal cabinet and served as a minister with the portfolio of industries, production and special initiatives under former military dictator Pervez Musharraf. Unsurprisingly, his sugar mills flourished under his tenure as minister for industries.
In the 2008 elections, Tareen was re-elected as a member of the National Assembly for the second time from NA-195, this time on a PML-Functional ticket. But by late 2011, Tareen — who had initially planned on forming his own party of ‘clean politicians’ — had joined Imran’s PTI, saying that his vision was similar to that of the cricketer-cum-politician.
Time with PTI
Two years later, Tareen contested — and lost — the 2013 general elections from a seat in Lodhran, a place he had heavily invested in in terms of business, charity and development. In the 2015 by-elections, Tareen was re-elected as an MNA for a third time from NA-154 on a PTI ticket.
In 2017, Tareen — who was at this point the PTI secretary general — was disqualified for life by the Supreme Court for being “dishonest” about his finances. He was found guilty under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution, the same article under which then-premier Nawaz Sharif was disqualified for life in July the same year.
After the verdict, Tareen had resigned as the PTI secretary general but very much remained a part of the party. His influence was evident when, despite being disqualified, he gave a detailed briefing on agriculture to the PTI government’s federal cabinet in 2018.
But in 2020, Tareen was one of several bigwigs named in a sugar inquiry commission — formed on the directives of then-premier Imran to probe the rise in the price of the commodity. It was the subsequent investigation into the sugar scam which led to the souring of his relationship with Imran.
That year Tareen departed for London for about five months, while the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) sought details of his assets in Pakistan and abroad, his bank transactions, especially his transfer of money abroad.
In 2021, the FIA formally booked Tareen and his son Ali Tareen for fraud and money laundering — a charge he vociferously denied. The same year, Tareen formalised the split in the ruling PTI when he announced parliamentary leaders of “his group” — both in the national and the Punjab assemblies.
Even though the PTI insisted that the party and members of the JKT group would move forward as one, Tareen had started raising his voice against the government’s policies. He also publicly admitted that he had played a key role in the formation of the party’s government in Punjab by using his aircraft to approach independents who had won in different constituencies of the province.
In 2022, the JKT group took centre stage in the politics of Punjab as both the PTI government and the opposition urged the group to play a decisive role in the formation of the provincial government. At this point, then-Punjab chief minister Usman Buzdar had resigned in favour of Elahi as Imran tried to wrangle up enough support to survive the no-confidence motion brought against him by the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM).
Soon after, Abdul Aleem Khan — a former Punjab minister and Imran’s close aide — announced that he would be joining the JKT group, lamenting the sidelining of PTI loyalists. In April 2022, the JKT group joined hands with the PDM to oust Imran as prime minister through a no-confidence motion.
New party, old faces
A month after the violent events of May 9, 2023 — when protests broke out in the country following Imran’s arrest — Tareen launched his new political party, the IPP, with old faces. The party was formed following a proposition floated by the powers that be to set up a ‘parallel’ PTI to contain Imran’s party ahead of the general elections. Tareen was made the IPP’s patron-in-chief while Aleem was made the party president.
After the PDM government’s tenure ended in August 2023, JKT group stalwarts such as Aleem and Awn Chaudhry maintained close ties with PML-N’s Sharifs, including visits to London and personal interactions in Pakistan.
By October, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had officially registered the IPP, paving the way for the party to contest elections. The same month, the IPP held a maiden public rally in Lahore where Tareen said some in the PTI had worked tirelessly to follow a dream of making ‘Naya Pakistan’ but could not do so as the party gradually replaced its original team after assuming power and individuals who were unaware of the party’s vision took the helm.
He said IPP members would now complete this dream of transforming Pakistan “into a beacon of progress on the world stage”.
In January, the Supreme Court quashed lifetime disqualification for lawmakers under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution, paving the way for Tareen to contest the general elections.
He formally launched his party’s election campaign on January 15, pledging to address the issues faced by voters and expressing the desire to steer the country towards prosperity.
It also appears that the IPP has an electoral alliance with the PML-N — which the party has notably refrained from targeting in rallies — in place for the Feb 8 polls, although there has been no official announcement in this regard.
For the 2024 general elections, Tareen is a candidate from NA-149 and NA-155 in Multan and Lodhran, respectively.
Tareen has been very vocal about his disillusionment with the PTI. According to him, the prime minister’s chair “is a dangerous thing because it can make one feel like a king and make one forget the public who elected him”.
He has vowed to truly bring about ‘Naya Pakistan’, saying his party will put the people of the country first.
Tareen has repeatedly emphasised his strong connection to southern Punjab owing to family ties there. He’s vowed to eliminate the sense of deprivation felt by the people there, and has voiced his belief in the eventual formation of the southern Punjab province.
He has stated that he will work with the PML-N’s Sharifs to stabilise the national economy after the Feb 8 election.
Header artwork by Abdul Sattar Abbasi