Emergence of forward bloc a dangerous development for PTI

By: Ashraf Mumtaz      Published: 05:32 PM, 19 May, 2021
Emergence of forward bloc a dangerous development for PTI
File photo.

After the PML-N’s failure to oust the Imran Khan government despite all efforts and its leaders’ announcement that they would now prefer the government to serve out its mandated term so that people could see its failures on all fronts, the Jahangir Khan Tareen factor poses a serious threat to the present setup’, particularly in Punjab.

Tareen, a former secretary-general who, like many others in what is contemptuously labelled as sugar mafia, is facing investigations on the charge of skimming huge profits by creating artificial shortage of the sweetener, is gathering more and more legislators, both in the National Assembly and the provincial legislature, to mount pressure on the prime minister to exonerate him. 

(Although he seeks justice his actual target is to get a clean chit). 

On Monday, as many as 31 parliamentarians met at the residence of the sugar baron, expressed confidence in his leadership and pledged to stand by him at this juncture. They empowered him to work out a policy for them to follow in the days and weeks ahead). 

The participants announced their own parliamentary groups in the two houses, Faisalabad’s Raja Riaz being the leader for the National Assembly and Bhakkar’s Saeed Akbar Niwani for the Punjab Assembly. 

This is a dangerous development for the ruling party, especially because of the timing.

During the next few weeks the federal and Punjab budgets are to be presented which the respective governments have to get approved from the two houses. The passage of the budget is manifestation of the government enjoying majority’s support in the house. 

But what if the frustrated PDM and estranged PTI legislators join hands to block the approval?

Certainly it would not be possible for the Punjab government - which is already skating on thin ice- to get the budget approved.  

Since the dissident’s strength in the National Assembly is not very clear, it is hard to say anything about the fate of the federal budget.

In case the Punjab government could not get the budget passed, it would mean the end of Usman Buzdar’s era.

Needless to say that the opposition will try its best to widen the gulf between the PTI and the estranged leaders and to attract the angry group to its side.  

This means that for the ruling party next few weeks are very crucial. Either the party has to settle differences with the estranged leaders or get ready to face the consequences.

As a matter of principle, the forward bloc’s plans are shameful for all the constituents because being members of the ruling party they are supposed to strengthen the hands of the prime minister and the Punjab chief minister. But, unfortunately, they have decided to throw their weight behind JKT and save him from the consequences of inquiry. 

It’s a wrong approach, especially because the investigations are against all in the ‘sugar mafia’, not just JKT. 

More deplorable is the fact that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s assurances about justice have not been trusted. 

When a group of JKT supporters had recently met the prime minister in Islamabad, they had been given an assurance that nobody would be discriminated against. 

It was at that meeting that the prime minister had designated Senator Ali Zafar to look into the matter. 

His report is still awaited and JKT has started showing his political muscle.

This is totally unfair. It’s a wrong precedent being set by a former secretary general and his hangers on. 

It may be equated to blackmailing. 

If this is the right way to get justice, then Mr JKT should let the nation know what the ordinary beings, not enjoying the backing of so many MPs, should do to get justice. 

According to a latest report, Mr Niwani is scheduled to call on the Punjab Assembly speaker on Thursday to request him to allocate separate seats to the forward bloc members. 

Let’s see how the speaker handles the situation in the light of his past experience.  

With decades of political experience of dealing with diverse situations, he was the one who, a few months ago, had distributed Senate seats among PTI, PML-N and PML-Q according to their strength in the provincial legislature.  

Punjab was the only province where election became irrelevant because of the political skills of the veteran leader from Gujrat.