Situationer: Round II of Tareen-Imran tussle entering final phase

By Faizan Bangash
June 03, 2023

LAHORE: It may be a twist of fate or a hard luck story that noted political figure and businessman Jehangir Khan Tareen (JKT) was actively lobbying for Imran Khan and bringing politicians from other parties exactly five years ago in 2018. Interestingly, now he is on a totally opposite mission and consolidating his own group and gathering the politicians who no more need PTI and Imran Khan umbrella to win.


On Friday, former provincial minister Sahibzada Saeedul Hassan called on Tareen in Lahore and announced joining his group. Sahibzada, who had served twice as the provincial minister, once in the cabinet of Chaudhry Parvez Elahi (2002-2007) and then that of Sardar Usman Buzdar (2018-2022), won the 2018 election from Narowal seat as an independent candidate. He won from PP-46 while bagging around 37,000 votes as an independent candidate and defeated PTI’s Awais Qasim Khan.

Due to Jehangir Tareen’s lobbying, Saeedul Hassan joined the PTI, along with nearly two dozen other independent MPAs after which Tehreek-e-Insaf was able to form the government in Punjab for the first time. Since 1977, Buzdar became the first non-Muslim Leaguer candidate, who was elected as the CM Punjab; otherwise, after Nawab Sadiq Hussein of the PPP, who served as the CM till 1977, every time a Muslim Leaguer became the CM. The relationship between Imran Khan and Jehangir Khan Tareen started to turn bitter around 2020 over the appointment of some officials as well as the removal of some members from the Punjab cabinet, who were considered close to JKT.

Besides, on a few occasions, a war of words was also seen between party Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Jehangir Khan Tareen. However, the activism of Imran Khan’s advisor Shahzad Akbar against Tareen brought things to a point of no return and by 2021 April, Tareen formed a group comprising nearly 30 elected politicians including MNAs and MPAs. Every time when Tareen was to appear before the court in different cases, he and his son Ali Tareen were facing, the power show was staged by Tareen as a warning to Imran.

JKT was even heard saying “I am a friend, let me remain a friend, don’t turn me into an enemy.” Nevertheless, the situation never got normal and finally Imran Khan and his keyman in Punjab, Sardar Usman Buzdar, had to lose offices. In July 2022, the first announced tussle between JKT and Imran Khan was seen in the election arena as a majority of those MPAs who had joined the PTI through Tareen’s lobbying quit the office and contested on the PMLN ticket in the by-polls. In this round, the PTI emerged victorious as the majority of Jehangir Khan Tareen’s men, who contested on the PMLN ticket including Saeed Niwani, Faisal Jaboana, Tahir Randhawa, Ajmal Cheema and many more, lost.

Out of a total of 20 seats, where by-polls took place, the PTI won 15, but the key beneficiary of that victory was the PMLQ, as not a PTI MPA, but Chaudhry Parvez Elahi became the chief minister of Punjab. The Chaudhry continued to hold office for around six months until the Punjab Assembly was dissolved, a decision that cost the PTI very dearly and put serious questions on the political insight of Imran Khan. Since the dissolution of the Punjab Assembly, Imran Khan not only started facing a number of cases but also got arrested. What triggered the trouble further for the PTI was the May-9 incident when the corps commander’s house in Lahore, as well as other installations of the army and Rangers, were targeted by his supporters.

Since May 9, the dynamics changed massively, if not completely, and a majority of Imran Khan’s stalwarts, who were holding key offices in the PTI government, left him. Within one month, JKT got active once again and now he is actively lobbying to draw the PTI dissidents to his group, which may become a political party in the next few months. Tareen, under legal restriction, could not lead a party until he gets cleared by the court. In case, he gets relief from the court, he is most likely to lead a new ‘Tehreek-e-Insaf’. Whether he wins this second round of tussle with Imran remains to be seen.

From 2010 to 2012, Jehangir Tareen spent 12 years in Imran Khan-led PTI and fully supported him. In 2015, he also won a by-poll for a National Assembly seat in Lodhran and defeated the PMLN candidate. His sister, Seemi Ezdi, was also got elected as a senator on the PTI ticket in 2018.