Prime Minister Imran Khan is likely to find himself in troubled waters as his old friend and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) former secretary-general, Jahangir Khan Tareen (JKT), is giving rare strong statements. Analysts believe that with the rise of anti-JKT group in PTI, there is a likelihood of a major disruption in Punjab. The situation for Imran Khan, speculate experts, is going to be difficult as he is currently facing the challenge posed by novel coronavirus outbreak.
بات مفادات کی ہے اور مفادات بالاتر ہوں تو چینی سے میٹھی اور جہازوں سے اوپر دوستی بھی وقت آنے پر ختم ہو سکتی ہے۔ اب چینی سکینڈل کے تناظر میں نوشتہ دیوار پڑھ لیجیے: چینی سے میٹھی ’دوستی‘ اور @asmashirazi #JKT #ImranKhan #PTI #sugar https://t.co/efRE7MnFUh— ZeeshanHaiderBBC (@ZesHPirzadA) April 7, 2020
It is important to note that earlier this year, following the shortage of wheat flour in the country and the subsequent price hike, sugar had also gone missing from the market. Taking notice of the situation, the prime minister had formed a committee to find out those responsible for the crises.
On Saturday, the inquiry report on sugar crisis had named Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) senior leader Jahangir Khan Tareen, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid’s (PML-Q) Moonis Elahi and Bakhtiar’s relative as the beneficiaries of the price hike.
On Sunday, PM Imran had said that he was waiting for the detailed forensic reports, slated to come out on April 25, before taking any action against those responsible.
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Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday reshuffled the federal cabinet which saw Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar being replaced by Syed Fakhar Imam as the federal minister for national food security.
Bakhtiar has instead been given the charge for the Ministry of Economic Affairs. Bakhtiar has replaced Hammad Azhar, who has been made the federal minister for industries. Industries were being overlooked by Abdul Razak Dawood, an adviser to the prime minister on commerce, textile, industries and production and investment. No update has yet been issued on whether Dawood’s role has changed after Azhar’s appointment.
“No longer close to Imran Khan”
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.
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.
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.
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Defending the decision to export sugar, JKT 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.
JKT said that Pakistan had benefitted up to Rs 30 billion from Rs 3bn 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 Rs 67/kg which benefitted the people by Rs 250m.
Analysts believe that anti-JKT lobby is not being led by Azam Khan rather some senior PTI’s ministers are behind the campaign to sideline him. A senior PTI leader spoke to GVS and maintained that “a group from Punjab does not want JKT in PTI and now it is up to the prime minister who has to take the decision,” he said. “But we all remember, and should never forget,” he suggested, “that JKT has done a tremendous job for the party”. It is to be seen whether the premier reviews his ‘changed’ views about JKT or not.