In the ongoing eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation, Prime Minister Imran Khan has been the first to blink. Mr Khan has agreed to meet a group of party lawmakers who are angry at the treatment being meted out to the party’s former general secretary.
The man who had inducted electables from different parties into the PTI fold on the eve of the 2018 elections to help Mr Khan form the government, has proved that he could recall them whenever he desired, with equal ease. It must have come as a shock to Mr Khan that when push comes to shove not all party law makers would be loyal to him.
Things came to a head when the FIA booked Mr Jehangir Khan Tareen, son Ali Tareen and other members of the family in two separate cases pertaining to financial embezzlement and money laundering. While MrTareen maintained that he was innocent and was being subjected to a targeted campaign of character assassination, Adviser to Prime Minister Shahzad Akbar insisted that there would be no favouritism in the case and MrTareen would be prosecuted as per law.
The PM agreed to meet the group as the departure of 11 MNAs and 22 Punjab MPAS could pose a threat to both the federal and Punjab governments. This is likely to be seen as a deviation on the part of Mr Khan from the high moral principles professed by him, in order to continue to remain in power.
A day ahead of the PM’s scheduled meeting with the PTI dissidents, the sugar scam inquiry team head Mohammad Rizwan, who was investigating Mr Tareen’s case was removed from chairing the investigation team “with immediate effect”. The FIA Lahore director had carried out investigations against PTI’s disgruntled leader Tareen and PML(N) President Shehbaz Sharif. His removal is likely to be seen as a surrender to political pressure and would send a disturbing message to the bureaucracy. Henceforth bureaucrats would be hesitant to take up cases against political leaders.
The incident has revived fears in the anti-Tareen group within the PTI. FM Shah Mehmood Qureshi has advised PTI activists not to worry about a few MPAs or MNAs going astray, while he told the disgruntled group to take one position and not play both sides.