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ISLAMABAD: The ‘like-minded’ group within the ruling party that comprises of nearly three dozen supporters of estranged party leader Jahangir Khan Tareen has denied having created any forward bloc in the party saying that the group is still ‘part and parcel’ of the ruling party.

A key leader of the like-minded group in Punjab Assembly dispelled the impression that like-minded group has any plan to join hands with opposition parties or to create hurdles for federal and Punjab government in the passage of the related federal and provincial budgets scheduled for next month.

“The purpose of this group is only to make sure that no injustice is meted out at Tareen,” the leader said, requesting anonymity.

“If we feel that Tareen continues to be unfairly targeted by the government authorities and unjustified cases are pursued against him, then we will chalk out our next plan of action. This does not mean we plan to create difficulties for federal and Punjab governments in the passage of the budgets,” he said adding that the like-minded group would map out its ‘concrete plan of action’ in July if justice is denied to Tareen.

The like-minded group’s parliamentary leader in National Assembly Raja Riaz said: “We want Tareen to be given the opportunity of a fair trial. We believe he is being subjected to witch-hunt and a vindictive campaign is launched against him. We cannot let this victimisation campaign to continue. This is the reason like-minded group is in place to ensure that Tareen is not denied justice,” he told Business Recorder.

Riaz denied that the like-minded group was formed with the patronage of ‘powerful quarters’— an obvious reference to security establishment.

“The like-minded group comprises of almost 40 lawmakers of Punjab and National Assemblies. That’s enough strength to give a tough time to the federal and provincial governments. But we are part and parcel of the PTI. We have no plan to create hurdles in the legislations related to budgets at the centre and in Punjab,” he said.

Riaz said the lawmakers who are members of the like-minded group regard Tareen as their ‘mentor’. “The members of the like-minded group are those who were introduced to PTI because of him [Tareen]. So, naturally, our group regards him as their mentor and we believe injustice is being done with him and we have to stop it.”

Tareen said several sugar tycoons who are involved in serious corruption and other mega scams have been allowed to go scot-free while Tareen is singled out and targeted. “But we hope that this victimisation will be stopped. Last month, when we met Prime Minister Imran Khan, he assured us that justice would be done and Tareen would not be subjected to victimisation,” he said.

On April 27, a group of 33 lawmakers who support Tareen against inquiry into sugar scam launched by Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) met the PM.

A day before the meeting, the government, on April 26, removed Muhammad Rizwan, the FIA Director Lahore and head of the sugar scam inquiry, in what appeared to be a move to appease the like-minded group.

On Tuesday, Tareen announced the names of Raja Riaz and Saeed Akbar Nawani as the parliamentary leaders of the like-minded group in National and Punjab Assemblies.

On Wednesday, speaking to media in Lahore, Tareen said, “We are all part of the PTI and will remain so.” He, however, alleged that Punjab government was using vindictive tactics against him and other members of like-minded group and the group would raise its voice against “these acts of revenge.” Jahangir Tareen and his son Ali Tareen Wednesday appeared before Additional Sessions Judge Hamid Hussain in connection with cases against them related to money laundering and fraud. The court extended their interim bails till May 31.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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