LAHORE   -   Often denied groupings in the hardcore PTI leadership have started coming to the surface now. It is indicative of nothing else but a chaos like situation in a party which assumed power only eight months back after a political struggle spreading over two decades.

It is a common knowledge that the ruling PTI has at least four power centres in Punjab. Jahangir Tareen group supported by Aleem Khan, Shah Mehmood Qureshi group now supported by Punjab Governor Ch Mohammad Sarwar (who until recently was a power centre himself), Ch Parvez Elahi, now Speaker Punjab Assembly but ambitious to become Chief Minister at suitable time, and Usman Buzdar himself supported by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Monday’s press conference by Shah Mehmood Qureshi along with Punjab Governor Ch Sarwar has sent ripples across the party ranks and file. Some federal and provincial ministers have come out in the open in defence of Mr Tareen accusing Mr Qureshi of washing the dirty linen in the public.

Although Tareen spoke cautiously claiming that he attends official meetings and briefings as desired by the Prime Minister, yet Shah Mehmood has a very valid argument against his doing so. Mr Qureshi argues that after Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification, the PTI as a whole had raised hue and cry that the PML-N leader should be barred even from attending the party meetings.

Qureshi thinks that Tareen’s presence in the cabinet meetings and sitting on the left and right of the Prime Minister provides an opportunity to the PML-N to raise serious questions. Not only this, Shah Mehmood categorically stated that Jahangir Tareen’s act of attending such meetings was a blatant violation of sitting Chief Justice’s verdict against him as was in case of Nawaz Sharif.

This bickering in the PTI’s internal cadres could have devastating effects on its government in view of the worsening economic situation. Also, the rising inflation coupled with recent hike in petroleum products is forcing the people at gross roots level to criticise its performance.  Can the PTI afford

this at such a crucial juncture? The obvious answer is a No. Its weaknesses on deliverance, failures on the economic front and going back to the IMF against all the tall claims to the contrary, are enough indicators that Imran Khan has to make a new team of ministers as well as bureaucrats. He needs to field competent officers to make workable and viable policies.

Political pundits feel that silence of the PML-N’s top leadership will not continue indefinitely. In case, the PPP and the PML-N join hands, like they have done on the issue of military courts, it could be problematic for the PTI in the days to come. They are of the view that if JUI-F chief Maulana Fazalur Rehman succeeds in bringing the opposition parties on the one-point agenda of destabilising the government, the move can work well.

It’s because the PTI is ruling in the Centre and Punjab with a thin majority, also having troubles with its coalition partners. Ruling party’s working relationship with the PML-Q, the MQM and Balochistan Awami Party has not been cordial since the formation of coalition governments in August last year.

Already, the issue of briefing the opposition parties on the National Action Plan (NAP) has caused a very serious embarrassment to the PTI and the Prime Minister. In an apparent attempt to avoid handshake  with the opposition leaders, Foreign Office was asked to arrange this briefing. The invitations were issued by an officer of the level a deputy secretary.

The Opposition as a whole rejected the idea and refused to attend this briefing. Consequently, Imran Khan had to step back and ask Shah Mehmood Qureshi to arrange the briefing as desired by the joint opposition. The opposition leaders have been insisting from the day one that all the elected representatives should be briefed on the security situation in the National Assembly. The argument was that if the COAS and the DG ISI could come to the Assembly to brief them on the security situation, why can’t Shah Mehmood and Imran Khan do the same.

 

SOME GOVT LEADERS SUPPORT TAREEN AGAINST QURESHI

 

Imran Mukhtar from Islamabad adds: Reacting to the earlier objections made by Foreign Minister Qureshi about the participation of Tareen in official meetings, some government functionaries of the ruling party came out in support of the disqualified politician.

Tareen was once the secretary general of the ruling PTI and had played a key role in the formation of his party’s government in the Centre and in Punjab also reacted over the remarks of Qureshi.

The foreign minister, who is also the vice-chairman of PTI, during a press conference asked Tareen to refrain from attending official government meetings because of having a stigma of life-time disqualification from entering into the election.

In December 2017, the Supreme Court had disqualified Tareen for concealing his assets under Article 62(1) (f) of the Constitution and held him ineligible for life to hold any public office.

Earlier this month, he briefed a federal cabinet meeting on agriculture reforms that led to a strong reaction from the opposition party — the PML-N.

After the remarks of Qureshi, Tareen took to Twitter and said: "There is only one man in my life whom I consider my leader and to whom I am answerable. His name is Imran Khan."

"I have stood by his side through thick and thin and will continue to do so till my last breath, IA. What others may say for their own strange reasons does not concern me," he added.

A close aide to Prime Minister Imran Khan and Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda also via Twitter supported Tareen and said: “He sits in official meetings on the insistence of cabinet members, including myself. He has selflessly done a lot for the party, we respect him as a senior colleague and learn from his expertise.” “Nobody in the party can dictate us, the prime minister is our leader and we take instructions from him only," he added.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry was also in the line to lend support to Tareen and tweeted: "Today if PTI is in government, Jahangir Tareen had a major role for PTI being in power. He joins cabinet meetings on the prime minister's wish.”  He added that seniors should respect the wishes of the PM. The court verdict making him out of election was unfortunate and he is out of the election but not out from the hearts of the PTI workers, he also said

Awn Chaudhry, advisor to the Chief Minister Punjab Usman Buzdar and once a close aide to PM Khan also took to the Twitter and said, “As a PTI activist, I have learnt a lot from Jahangir Khan Tareen. His services for Pakistan and PTI are unparalleled. Pakistan needs him now more than ever.”  He further said that Tareen’s necessary presence in official meetings always added to the effectiveness of the matters and didn’t create any controversy.

Rifts had been emerging between Qureshi and Tareen in the past as some years back, the former had uttered against the latter during a campaign of the intra-party polls of PTI.