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June 10, 2021

Tareen group keeping mum: Federal, Punjab budgets to be passed without a whimper?

June 10, 2021

ISLAMABAD: What will be the strategy of the disgruntled Jahangir Tareen group of lawmakers when the federal and Punjab budgets are placed before parliament? The estranged leader of the group has apparently not got what he had wanted despite garnering the support of over 30 legislators to pile on pressure on the concerned quarters to relent on the actions against him.

As the dates for the presentation of the two budgets draw closer, the Tareen group-- which had earlier been quite vocal and aggressive -- is completely mum, keeping its plans close to its chest.

After a lot of efforts by The News, just one outspoken member of the group, Nazir Ahmed Chohan, attended the call on his cell phone but he too was evasive in answering any questions on the issue. “Only Tareen will talk about the situation and only he knows whether or not Barrister Syed Ali Zafar has finalised his report,” he said, hanging up.

It appears that the group has decided to remain silent till the situation crystallizes and will speak only after being given the go-ahead by Tareen. For now, he has asked his allies to hold back on any reservations they might have. The last time Tareen himself spoke out was on May 31 when he and his son appeared before a Lahore court seeking the extension of their bails. He was not satisfied at all with the state of affairs as he called for justice. "Don't do politics with us, do justice with us."

Even during its earlier more aggressive interlude, the group kept making it clear that it had not abandoned the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and were still very much part of it. All they wanted was that the “injustice” against Tareen be stopped forthwith. They had also stated that they would not go against the federal and Punjab governments during the passage of the budgets. This declaration was made a couple of weeks ago.

For its part, the PTI doesn’t seem nervous about the smooth sailing of the budget in the national and Punjab assemblies without the support of the Tareen group. Rather, it remains sanguine that it will encounter no problem whatsoever in getting the budgets passed.

The Tareen group’s primary demand has not yet been met. Tareen and his supporters want the three cases registered by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on money laundering charges and the probe being carried out by the agency on the sugar scam to be dispensed with. To start with, they call for the transfer of all these proceedings to the concerned departments such as the Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) etc. For further investigations.

Additionally, they had also called for the early conclusion of the report on the matter by Barrister Ali Zafar, who had been assigned by the prime minister the job of examining whether or not justice was being done to Tareen during the investigations. "There is conjecture that a verbal report has been submitted to the premier and it is very positive for me. We had set out to seek justice and Imran Khan had promised justice so it is our request: a lot of days have passed and now justice should be served. If justice is delayed, then justice is not really served. The time for justice has come so the request is again to take action on whatever Barrister Zafar has noted in his report," Tareen had said.

After a controversy had erupted over his “report” a few days ago, Barrister Zafar himself discounted any significant impact of his prospective findings on the cases and investigations against Tareen. In a series of tweets, he made it clear that any findings, not necessarily in writing, shall be purely internal to the PTI and have no legal value or status. Nor would they have any relevance to or effect on pending enquiries/investigations against the sugar barons or Tareen. As per the policy of the government, there is no room for concessions against corruption. “However, I have been tasked to look into Tareen’s complaints and

will be making my recommendations directly and only to the premier once I conclude”, he posted.

Going by his statement, it seems that even if he prepares his report and submits it to the prime minister, it will entail no relief for Tareen.

In his public remarks over the past few days, the prime minister has not dropped even a slight hint that his government is inclined to do away with the cases and inquiries against Tareen. Rather, he has talked about taking the process relating to different scams, including the sugar scandal, to their logical conclusion.

The FIA is not only going ahead with pursuing the three cases against Tareen but is also continuing the investigations into the sugar scandal. It was recently directed by a senior federal cabinet member, who is overseeing the whole proceedings, to accelerate the probe.

On the face of it, it seems like a mere coincidence that Tareens’ bail had been extended till June 11 when the federal government will unveil the budget in the National Assembly.