ISLAMABAD - With the release of the sugar crisis inquiry report against him by his own government, beleaguered Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) stalwart Jahangir Khan Tareen has started consultations with like-minded people about his future in the political landscape of the country, well-placed sources informed The Nation.

Background interviews with some senior politicians indicate that Tareen is considering two options, either to search for a ‘respectable comeback’ or to explore the option of joining hands with other political forces to secure the political career of his family.

Many within the ruling party believe that Prime Minister Imran Khan has closed the doors of his party for the business tycoon due to the embarrassment the latter had to face after the report of the inquiry committee on the sudden increase in sugar prices came to the public’s knowledge.

However, many loyalists of Tareen are still hopeful that some heavyweights within the party can convince PM Khan that a politician who has invested a lot on the PTI to make it the nation’s ruling party shouldn’t be discredited on the basis of a report that also indirectly holds his own government responsible for giving a benefit to the sugar industry. They hope that senior party leadership would intervene and play their role to unite the PTI once more under the leadership of Imran Khan.

According to well-placed political sources, some senior party leaders are trying to arrange a meeting between Imran Khan and Jahangir Tareen, who was once his close aide, but so far they have failed to do so. They mentioned that PTI elders including President Arif Alvi, Speaker National Assembly Asad Qaiser, Governor Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Shah Farman, and former chief minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Pervez Khattak, and other who are considered well-wishers of the party, can also play their role, but they are still tight-lipped on this issue.

“A tug of war is going on within the ruling party and it looks like the inquiry report has clean-bowled Tareen, and the senior politician finds no place within the party which is evident from his own reaction as well,” said Zaigham Khan, an Islamabad-based senior political analyst. The PTI stalwart understands that he is being singled out, adding that apparently his political future has ended at least as far as PTI is concerned.

By opting to join other political forces, Tareen can give a tough time to the ruling party. Many political families in Punjab, interior Sindh and other provinces are still in regular contact with Tareen, especially those whom he had convinced to join the ruling party before the 2018 general elections, say PTI insiders. “It is yet to be seen how the PTI leader would react over the humiliation he has faced,” Zaigham said. However, in the past politicians have managed to make comebacks to political life.

Zaigham said that Tareen role in sugar crisis could not be seen in isolation, as the sugar industry has a major investment in all three leading political parties of the country — PTI, PML-N, and PPP.

“The leadership of PML-N and PPP directly owns sugar industries and PTI had indirect investment through Tareen,” he explained, adding that since 1980s businessmen were brought into politics and vice versa. This whole model needed to be reviewed to set the country’s governance in the right direction.

“At the least, there is a need to disentangle the sugar industry from politics.”

According to a senior PTI leader, Tareen is also in contact with some allied parties of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government and Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q) is very significant among them.

He said PTI’s allies were also confused at the moment; who is the right person in PTI for taking political decisions after the recent episode.

According to sources in the government, three party leaders - who are also important government functionaries - had played their role in convincing PM Khan that the report of the inquiry committee, that named Tareen and some other leader figures as the major beneficiaries of the sugar crisis, should be made public.

After the sugar report, Tareen blamed Principal Secretary to PM Azam Khan, a senior bureaucrat, for bringing the report against him.

“Azam Khan is continuously harming PM Imran Khan,” he has said previously.

Commenting on the accusation of the PTI leader, a close aide to the PM said that Azam had a clear policy: he had to implement all the directions and decisions of the PM. “The Prime Minister himself takes all decisions and PS gets them implemented,” he said, adding that the bureaucrat from KP doesn’t operate like his predecessors by indulging into the political matters of the PM.

A political advisor to Imran Khan was of the view that no government can perform without support of the political class in Pakistan and there is a feeling within the party that Tareen shouldn’t be discredited the way being done right now.

He further pointed out that the PM had also closed his doors for all political bigwigs whom Tareen had persuaded to join PTI, as he has never met nor invited many of them to discuss the political situation of the country. He said that several political families were still in contact with Tareen and waiting for his political future plan to take their own decisions.

Tareen has a strong lobby of support within his own party; former CM KP Pervez Khattak and some other leading politicians of the party are considered part of his group. It is likely that some politicians who joined PTI after parting their ways with Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) would hold a press conference in favour of the PTI leader in the coming days, following footsteps of PTI MNA Raja Riaz Ahmed from Faisalabad. Ahmed in his press conference had declared Tareen as an asset of the PTI.