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April 9, 2021

Friends and foes

Editorial

 
April 9, 2021

The man seen as the central player within the PTI, even before the party had taken shape as a force capable of fighting and winning a general election, appears to have issued what some are reading as a warning. Jahangir Tareen, who had played a huge part in shaping the PTI as a political force and later in supporting it at every stage into and beyond the 2018 election, has reacted strongly while appearing before a Multan banking court to seek bail before arrest to the FIRs filed against him and his son in the sugar scandal. Tareen had left the country for about seven months after the sugar commission report was made public in April 2020, but then returned. It is also said that during his exile, he remained in some contact with Imran Khan, and that Tareen had supported Imran when he sought a vote of confidence from the National Assembly. However, soon after that, per sources, there appears to have been a strong falling out and Tareen has alleged that certain individuals within the PTI are responsible for this.

This opens up a new chapter in Pakistan’s politics. Tareen is not a man who can be discarded quietly or expected to disappear without a murmur. Though he is generally regarded as a silent politician, he has remained affiliated with the PML-N, supporting Shahbaz Sharif, the PML-Q, the PML-F and then, of course, the PTI. Within the PTI he was long regarded as the closest friend of Imran Khan within the party. His suggestion that if he is pushed any further, he could act against those guilty of adopting such a vindictive strategy against him, promises to open up a Pandora's box that could damage the PTI very badly and lead to other political developments. The PTI has responded to his charges by saying that it cannot spare its own allies from investigation in the case of corruption including the sugar scam.

The question however is how Jehangir Tareen will act next and what his moves could be. Many agree that his appearance before the court in the presence of at least 10 MPAs and MNAs, most of them belonging to Punjab, was intended as a show of strength. Analysts believe his strength goes deeper. He therefore has the potential of harming the PTI and its leader. There is also conjecture that he will fall into a broader plan meant to work against the existing government and that the PTI will need to act strongly in order to thwart any such actions from a man who had long been seen as the party's friend, but may now have turned into a foe.