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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Civil matters have been converted into criminal charges against me: JKT

To avoid a political situation in which the PTI government comes close to the brink of collapse, PM Khan will have to reconcile with Jahangir Khan Tareen.

Jahangir Khan Tareen (JKT), PTI’s estranged leader and Pakistan’s prominent businessman has alleged that in his case “civil matters” are being converted into “criminal cases”. He claimed, while talking to media outside a court in Lahore, that the charges against him, irrespective of their merit, are purely of corporate nature, but instead of Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) is carrying out the investigation.

JKT‘s counsel Salman Safdar, earlier in a media interview with Punjab News Network (PNN) had similar things. Safdar had said that while public has been given impression that Jehangir Khan Tareen is being investigated for his role in creating “Sugar Crisis” but in reality none of the inquiries being conducted against his client (JKT) were about sugar crisis. In fact, Mr. Safdar had further argued that all the charges relate to corporate matters in the domain of business and tax. Although, these matters did start after FIA launched inquiry into sugar crisis last year, the FIA could not find any charge against JKT’s sugar mills; however it soon started investigating matters which were related purely to business.

It is an interesting situation because even Prime Minister Imran Khan in an interview to Kamran Khan had said that they found sugar mills of JKT practicing the best practices when compared to other competitors.

Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has lodged three first information reports (FIRs) against Jahangir Khan Tareen, none of which is related to sugar price hike. First FIR is about shareholders and investment. Second is about money laundering. While the third is about a corporate tax.

Read more: PM Imran Khan to meet Jahangir Tareen?

Last week, the FIA admitted in the court that it had “mistakenly” accused JKT of money laundering in one of the FIRs it registered against Tareen. JKT’s counsel told the court , “the truth is that no fake accounts have been used in making transactions with the JWD sugar mills owned by Jahangir Tareen.”

Furthermore, FIA requested the banking court to transfer the case to a trial court; legal fraternity questioned the conduct of FIA. Salman Safdar argued that FIA was unprepared and it is looking for ways to charge JKT by transferring case to a district court.

JKT believes that business matters, although not based on facts, should be proceeded under SECP rather FIA, for FIA has no jurisdiction to investigate corporate matters. His words were, “even if all these accusations are to be considered true then these can only be investigated by SECP or FBR”

Media persons argue that JKT has not been a public office holder since Parvez Musharraf regime. Pakistan Muslim League (N) government had tried at multiple occasions to charge JKT of serious irregularities but it failed to do so. It failed to transform business cases into criminal ones.

In business matters, arrests are often a remote possibility but FIA conducted these cases in a manner with such media publicity that both Jahangir Khan Tareen and his son Ali Tareen looked like facing imminent arrests. Both father and son secured bail from the court last weekend. This case has sent shock waves across the corporate circles. Few months ago, PTI government had assured the business community that NAB will only deal with accusations against public office holders. Chairman NAB appeared in public forums to assure that corporate matters will not be probed by the investigative body and NAB will restrict itself to abuse of public office. Now if FIA starts investigating corporate and tax matters that rightly belong in the domain of SECP and FBR then no business man will be safe in Pakistan.

Can JKT Group threaten the PTI hold in Punjab? 

Though JKT has clarified repeatedly that he can not think of harming PTI and Imran Khan. Yet the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lawmakers loyal to JKT have threatened to leave the party if the government continues to humiliate their senior leader, JKT.

JKT himself had told media that the aim of cases and inquiry against him was merely aimed at humiliating him and sidelining him from the mainstream politics rather bringing down the sugar prices.

“Not even a single word about sugar scam has been mentioned in the FIR registered against me,” he said.

Political analysts believe that although the Punjab MPAs, who side with Jahangir Khan Tareen, may not resign from the assembly seats, they can remain absent in Punjab Budget Session taking place next month. This could create a political situation where Pakistan People Party (PPP) and PMLN can exploit the situation and move forward a no confidence motion against Chief Minister Punjab Mr. Usman Buzdar.

Will PM Khan intervene to resolve this intra-party tussle? 

While “JKT Affair” may be giving boost to PM Imran Khan’s slogan of “accountability across board” amongst his young supporters. It can be argued that Khan did not support or bailed out his closest supporters. But on a more serious level it is definitely creating political fault lines across his party and well wishers. JKT had worked tirelessly for PTI’s success; after being disqualified by ex-CJP, Justice Saqib Nisar in a less than convincing case his political role within the government had remained limited. Every one knew of political differences between him and other powerful factions within PTI. And his treatment that now clearly looks like political victimisation is creating lots of resentment inside the PTI workers and support base. The most alarming is the oncoming political crisis when PTI factions would openly fight each other as this happened in the past.

Read more: Who is behind Anti-Jahangir Khan Tareen lobby in PTI?

To avoid a political situation in which the PTI government faces humiliation the PM Khan may have to intervene to reconcile PTI’s warring factions.