–PTI senior leader says PM Imran is his friend but he’s no longer ‘close to him as he used to be’
–Party sources claim PM making quiet efforts to neutralise intra-party groups led by Tareen, Qureshi
ISLAMABAD: The recently announced inquiry reports into the sugar and wheat crises has exposed major fissures in the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) as the party’s former secretary general and close aide to Prime Minister Imran Khan, Jahangir Khan Tareen has revealed that a certain group within the party and the PM’s Principal Secretary Azam Khan were making efforts to sideline him.
Tareen acknowledged in a TV show on Monday that he was no longer as close to Prime Minister Imran Khan as he used to be but maintained that the premier was still his friend and that he continues to stand by the PM’s cause.
“I’m in touch with Imran Khan on WhatsApp and that is likely to continue. I have no issues with him, the party or his vision for the country. As prime minister, it’s his discretion to work with whoever he wants. I have no bitterness with his decision making. He is the prime minister of Pakistan, after all,” Tareen said during the show.
He also acknowledged that he has a long-running conflict with Azam Khan, PM Imran’s principal secretary.
“When we came into power, I had a different vision on how to govern the country. He (Azam Khan) has a different one. I had told Azam Khan that the government’s job was not to enact incremental change but to transform the entire country,” Tareen said.
“Azam Khan disagrees with my vision for the country because he realises that enacting a transformative agenda would leave him powerless. I have always been against bureaucratic hurdles,” Tareen explained, alleging that Azam Khan was behind the FIA investigation against him.
The sugar baron also revealed that a vast majority of the prime minister’s cabinet agreed with his vision of the country.
“I think 70 per cent of his cabinet agrees with what I say. But the prime minister fully trusts Azam Khan. But he also knows me. He knows the kind of man I am. He knows I get things done,” Tareen said.
He also said that the FIA report had failed in answering fundamental questions raised by him.
He said that the sugar price had increased due to an increase in the support price of sugarcane. He said that Rs180 support price would mean the ex-mill rate of sugarcane is Rs65.
Defending the decision to export sugar, Tareen said that the decision could only be proved wrong if there was no stock of sugar in the country. He said that the country had 4,57,000 tonnes of surplus sugar reserves in November last year. He added that no one pockets the subsidy price and rather the subsidy had helped increase the country’s exports.
Tareen said that Pakistan had benefitted up to Rs30 billion from Rs3bn subsidy on sugar export. Referring to his provision of sugar to the Utility Stores Corporation (USC), Tareen said that despite a rise in sugar prices, he had provided 20,000 tonnes of sugar to Utility Stores at Rs67/kg which benefitted the people by Rs250m.
PM FORMING NEW CADRE:
Meanwhile, sources within the PTI told Pakistan Today that the prime minister has been making quiet efforts to create a new cadre within the party who would carry forward the party’s clean image.
“The new group has been named as ‘loyalist group’ and includes young leaders such as Murad Saeed, Shehryar Afridi, Ali Mohammad Khan, Hammad Azhar, Usman Dar and Dr Shehbaz Gill,” the sources claimed.
They added that by forming the ‘loyalist group’, PM Imran had neutralised the two major groups in the party headed by Jahangir Tareen and Shah Mahmood Qureshi. “Now it is the prime minister who is calling all the shots but his Principal Secretary Azam Khan influences most of these decisions,” they claimed.
It is worth mentioning here that PM Imran had also removed his close associate and trusted friend, Amir Kayani, after he was informed about the dubious role of Kayani in the increase of medicine prices last year. Interestingly, the inquiry report against Kayani was not made public.
Political analysts are of the view that the premier’s decision to make the report public is a message to the influential groups, including the Chaudhrys of Gujrat, Tareen and those insisting that the premier replace Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and take decisions on several other matters in their favour.
In a tweet, PTI chief organiser Saifullah Niazi stated that the ‘sugar mafia’ was threatening the premier that the price would go up to Rs110 per kg if the inquiry was not stopped.
It is worth noting here that Tareen had been appointed PTI’s secretary general in Niazi’s place. However, Niazi was recently appointed as the chief organiser of the party after Tareen was disqualified by the Supreme Court (SC).