The scene seemed familiar, but there was a twist. The defendant in a criminal case appeared in court while accompanied by a number of political supporters. However, it was not some opposition figure in the dock, but PTI stalwart Jehangir Tareen, who until the sugar prices spiraled out of control, was as close to Prime Minister Imran Khan as anyone, and his companions were PTI legislators. Those were presumably among the MNAs and MPAs who attended the dinner at Mr Tareen’s house who expressed willingness to resign unless Mr Tareen was given justice.
One of the anomalies is that the charges against Mr Tareen do not involve the sugar scam. The FIR has been registered by the FIA for business malpractices, even though it should be the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, which would file the FIR with the FIA as the complainant. Mr Tareen complains that he has been railroaded at the behest of opponents who have gained Mr Khan’s ear, which is why Mr Khan has resorted to such methods. The sugar crisis alone does not explain Mr Khan’s venom, for prosecuting Mr Tareen has not helped bring down the sugar price. Mr Khan himself has gone on record to say that the sugar cartel had cause the common man to pay out billions of rupees extra, but has not got the price down.
Mr Khan must count the political cost. While sitting on the files of some, by expediting the case against Mr Tareen, he is not just losing the services of Mr Tareen, but is creating a focus for opposition within the party. He is likely to find himself paying a high political cost at the next election, when he will only be bereft of Mr Tareen’s advice on campaigning and on ticket selection, but of the logistical services which only he can provide. This is apart from the cost of allowing intra-party resentments to build up around Mr Tareen, which is what is happening. While Mr Khan should not bend over backwards to get Tareen off the hook, he should also let him get a fair shake.