ISLAMABAD - Jahangir Khan Tareen’s shadow looms large over the PTI as he continues to call shots from behind the scene and remains a dominant political player like he used to be before his disqualification by the apex court.

The prominent political player from Southern Punjab, who played a pivotal role in the formation of PTI coalition governments in Punjab and centre, is spending most of his time in his Lahore residence, which is sometimes also called as the ‘second headquarters of PTI’.

Interestingly, since the residence is always bustling with visits of political figures from ruling clique and coalition partners, both from centre and Punjab, some opponents dub his Lahore residence the ‘first headquarters of PTI’.

The award of Senate ticket to Seemi Ezdi, the sister of Jehangir Tareen, had recently also given an opportunity to the political opponents to raise objection over his lingering influence.

“It is one of the U-turns of Imran Khan, as he claimed his friend (JKT) would no more intervene in the party’s affair after disqualification but still he is considered as front liner,” PML-N’s senior leader Ahsan Iqbal commented while talking to The Nation.

Background interviews and discussions reveal that Tareen’s political opponents believe that many of the appointments in Punjab and centre are being made at his whims and wishes. Jahangir Khan Tareen’s consultation, they feel, plays a decisive role in key appointments in Punjab as well as in the centre.

The recently appointed Managing Director (MD) of Bait-ul-Maal Aun Abbas Buppi and Parliamentary Secretary Communication Mian Shafi Arian are considered close to Tareen.

In the matters of the seat adjustment with the coalition partners, he was among the prominent figures from the party. The influence of Jahangir Tareen in the party was also significant when Sulaiman Naeem (PP-217) who won against PTI’s stalwart Shah Mehmood Qureshi came in the rank of PTI.

Sulaiman Naeem’s introduction in the party by Jahangir Tareen reportedly annoyed Qureshi. Despite the earnest efforts by the party chief, the cold war between the duo is still on.

Tareen was seen much prominent for watching the party’s interest in Balochistan. Balochistan National Party (BNP-Mengal) had formally joined as an allied partner of the ruling party in his presence.

Likewise, the members of ‘Seraiki Sooba Mahaz’ from Southern Punjab also officially become part of the PTI by his efforts. The decision of making chief minister Punjab was also given in his credit by some media reports, but he had denied it.

Of late, Tareen is not seen in the party’s important meetings sitting next to Imran Khan. Perhaps, it was opposition parties’ constant criticism that JKT should not take part in official meetings that have forced the wily politician to step back a bit from media limelight.

However, he was recently seen prominently in a function about ‘New Pakistan Housing scheme’ with provincial minister Mian Mehmood Rashid and others at Lodhran (Southern Punjab area).

About his influence on Punjab agriculture sector, political opponents say that JKT remains more influential than the agriculture minister to deal with the matter related to agriculture policy.

A recent ‘leaked video’ of a conversation among PML-Q and PTI members to rein in the Punjab governor reinforced the impression of an unrelenting influence of ‘disqualified’ Jahangir Khan Tareen in the ruling party’s affairs.

Most of these Southern Punjab members, who were seen as being in Tareen’s camp, have successfully got some positions in the centre and Punjab governments.

The disqualified member had already faced criticism for carving out a political dynasty of his own as his son Ali Tareen was awarded a ticket to contest by-polls when the apex court disqualified him.

The party leadership, on the other hand, has time and again acknowledged the loyalty of Jahangir Khan Tareen in party meetings. The award of party tickets, especially in Southern Punjab area, was also linked with him as his opinion was given much importance in almost all the cases.

Iftikhar Durrani, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Media while talking to The Nation said that Jahangir Khan Tareen was not part of any decision-making process of PTI-led governments at the federal level and in Punjab.

He ruled out any possibility that Tareen was influencing PTI’s decisions. “He is part of the consultation process of the party but this doesn’t mean that he is influencing the government’s decisions,” Durrani said.

He said that PTI’s federal and provincial ministers were independent in making their decisions. “CM has financial powers and executive authority and how someone can surrender its powers,” he said.

Political observers believe that Jahangir Khan Tareen would remain a leading player in the party to influence on different affairs. His opinion on various matters would be given much weight.