- Insiders say NAB tainted Aleem Khan can prove disastrous for party
ISLAMABAD: With the race for the formation of Punjab government gearing up, the biggest question that remains unanswered is that who would Imran Khan chose to helm the province of Punjab.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) successfully clinched 123 seats in the country’s most populous province, second only to Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PTI), which has been ruling Punjab for the last 10 years and has 129 seats in the provincial assembly.
While the PML-N was a favourite to form a government in Punjab, the situation changed after four independent members-elect of Punjab Assembly met with PTI Chairman Imran Khan and announced to join his party, taking the tally of the party’s seats in provincial assembly to 127 – only two members behind the PML-N.
To form the government in the province, a party needs 149 seats. With 28 independent MPAs also elected on July 25, the trump card lies in the hands of independents and either party has a chance to win.
With its own government in the centre, the PTI is poised to form its government in Punjab as well as it is luring the independent candidates to its fold. But in order to cleanse Punjab of the PML-N’s clout spanning over 35 years, the PTI needs to outperform its predecessors and serve the people at large with an effective governance system.
Background interactions and interviews with senior PTI lawmakers have reflected that party leader Jehangir Khan Tareen is backing party’s wealthy lawmaker Abdul Aleem Khan as the candidate for the slot of Punjab chief minister.
The choice, however, looks absurd as Aleem Khan is being probed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) regarding his offshore companies enlisted in the Panama Papers scandal.
A source told Pakistan Today that Jehangir Tareen is taking Aleem Khan along during all meetings with the members-elect of Punjab Assembly in the quest for winning them over.
“Aleem Khan accompanied Tareen on his visits to Faisalabad and Multan on Friday night to meet with the independent MPAs,” he said, adding that Aleem then introduced these MPAs to Imran Khan giving an impression that he might lead PTI’s Punjab team.
Another PTI leader expressed immense anguish over the prospect of Aleem Khan as Punjab’s chief minister.
“Any such choice would prove to be a major dent to PTI’s image and its mission statement if a NAB tainted politician is picked as a chief minister in Punjab,” the source said.
It merits mention that Aleem Khan was grilled by NAB in May regarding his offshore companies disclosed in the Panama Papers. The PTI leader had appeared before the probing committee on January 23 where he was asked to present details of Hexam Investment Overseas Limited, which according to records is owned solely by Aleem.
The PTI leader, however, rejects NAB charges claiming that he would quit politics if proven guilty of acquiring “even an inch of land illegally”.
Even if Aleem Khan’s claim is to be considered true, it would be a disservice to the party chairman if Aleem Khan is appointed as next chief minister before he is cleared by NAB.
PTI leaders say that Shah Mahmood Qureshi was a choice for the provincial top slot as he had a clean image, political acumen, experience and wisdom to steer the biggest province of the country.
They said that since Punjab has been ruled by politicians from central Punjab for the past 35 years, there is largely a sense of deprivation across South Punjab, triggering the rise of demand of carving out a South Punjab province. Not only has this demand become popular, the PTI, PML-N and PPP made public pledges to create South Punjab province too.
Therefore, any seasoned politician from South Punjab can prove to be the best bet when it comes to ruling Punjab for the PTI.
Another PTI leader said that Chairman Imran should pick a politician from South Punjab who carries a clean image, has the requisite experience to deliver good governance in the province like Pervez Khattak did in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The nominee should also be capable of bringing in a reformed system of governance that will be fair for all.
“We need to learn from Pervez Khattak who provided a good blend of experience and political acumen to deliver in Punjab,” the PTI leader said.
Asked whether Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi could prove to be a good choice, the PTI leader laughed off the proposal saying that Pervaiz Elahi’s failure had compelled Pervez Musharraf to strike a deal with Benazir Bhutto.
When asked whether PTI leader Mehmoodur Rasheed could be a good choice, the PTI leader said that he would prove to be another disaster for the party.
“Mehmood was expelled from Jamaat-e-Islami on charges of capturing a graveyard land. He proved to be an utter failure as opposition leader in Punjab Assembly. Remember his recent glitch while nominating a crony of Shehbaz Sharif as caretaker Punjab chief minister,” the PTI leader concluded.
WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT BY SHAH NAWAZ MOHAL