The JKT dilemma

The Pak Banker - - EDITORIAL -

Apeace-build­ing ex­er­cise is in the mak­ing - and it's not in the for­eign pol­icy arena. Ice is said to be melt­ing be­tween Ja­hangir Khan Ta­reen (JKT) and Prime Min­is­ter Im­ran Khan, if their re­cent in­ter­views are to be be­lieved. In Pak­istan, the revo­lu­tion may not be tele­vised but po­lit­i­cal break-ups and rap­proche­ments surely are.

Both the prime min­is­ter and JKT had more re­gret than bite in their com­ments about each other. Though his in­ter­view to Kam­ran Khan were Im­ran Khan's first on­the-record com­ments on the mat­ter, JKT had spo­ken in some de­tail about it and there ap­peared to be some hurt and anger on dis­play. Re­ports had at­trib­uted much emo­tion to the prime min­is­ter over the sugar cri­sis which ranged from hurt to anger to vengeance but it was hard to sep­a­rate fact from em­bel­lish­ment. Yet for many (in­clud­ing those within the party), even at the height of the sugar cri­sis, Ta­reen was not some­one who could be writ­ten off. JKT, too, re­alised this and shortly af­ter­wards fell silent - in­stead of ex­plain­ing his point of view in in­ter­views which can and do cre­ate more words and as­ser­tions open to mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tions.

Time and the hour have surely run through their rough­est day. And per­haps it will just be a mat­ter of time be­fore the wounds are healed com­pletely.

The PM will find it far from easy to quickly re­store the vis­i­ble in­flu­ence en­joyed by Ta­reen in the past.

But the si­lence in be­tween was also filled with much spec­u­la­tion and sto­ries. There were ru­mours that JKT's stay in Lon­don was not just an op­por­tu­nity to es­cape the ac­count­abil­ity net here and pos­si­ble ar­rest but also to reach out to other par­ties. But nei­ther the­ory made much sense. How­ever much the sugar re­port had cre­ated rip­ples, there is yet lit­tle ev­i­dence of in­ves­ti­ga­tions hav­ing reached the stage where any agency would have be­gun pick­ing up or ar­rest­ing sugar mill own­ers. Un­doubt­edly, the 'sugar dad­dies' are in trou­ble but not the kind of trou­ble plagu­ing the op­po­si­tion.

Sim­i­larly, the hushed whis­pers of him reach­ing out to the PML-N also made lit­tle sense - the PML-N is a big party and the nat­u­ral ri­val of the PTI in Pun­jab but even if it was will­ing to of­fer JKT a place, it would never be able to of­fer him the kind of space and in­flu­ence he once en­joyed in the PTI. He was seen as Khan's right-hand man; an en­try into Noon was hardly go­ing to al­low him to take a short­cut to the top. The sec­ond tier in the PML-N has been around for too long and is too well en­trenched for a newcomer to make a place among them or shoot past them. JKT would know this - af­ter all his leap from a politi­cian/tech­no­crat from South Pun­jab to a na­tion­al­level leader was due to the PTI.

In­deed, the recog­ni­tion he con­tin­ues to get from Khan ac­knowl­edges this; in the Dunya chan­nel in­ter­view, Khan said that Ta­reen was some­one who was a friend and not just a party col­league.

But this does not mean that JKT's re­turn to the party will nec­es­sar­ily mean that ev­ery­one will live hap­pily to­gether. Partly be­cause his over­whelm­ing in­flu­ence in the party, in the first place, was not idyl­lic ei­ther. His cen­tral po­si­tion was ac­knowl­edged and re­sented in equal parts. Power, af­ter all, cre­ates a re­sis­tance to it. So, where he had his fac­tion or sup­port­ers, there were de­trac­tors too.

Be­cause of his se­nior­ity and per­haps a tus­sle over who would make de­ci­sions in south Pun­jab in terms of or­gan­i­sa­tion as well as elec­tion tick­ets, the JKT-SMQ (Shah Mah­mood Qureshi) ri­valry was the most well known and com­mented upon, but this is not to say that other crit­ics were not there. At key mo­ments in the past, the whis­pers against him be­came louder - the dharna was one such mo­ment as was per­haps the party's de­ci­sion to take the Panama case to the court. In both cases, it was whis­pered that Khan and JKT thought dif­fer­ently from the oth­ers and their view pre­vailed. And for ob­vi­ous rea­sons, it was eas­ier to blame the ad­viser than the leader!

But af­ter his dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion and the elec­tion win, the han­dling of the econ­omy led to the JKTAsad Umar saga - for by then SMQ had been put in his place in the for­eign min­istry. That these two ri­val­ries could be equated was con­firmed by Fawad Chaudhry in an in­ter­view.

All of this jock­ey­ing will re­sume once he is back. But the storm out­side will be big­ger than the one in­side.

For this rea­son, the prime min­is­ter will find it far from easy to quickly re­store the vis­i­ble stature and in­flu­ence en­joyed by Ta­reen in the past. The pol­i­tics of gov­ern­ment and per­cep­tion may cre­ate a dis­tance even if the per­sonal con­nec­tion is there. It will not be easy to ig­nore the larger po­lit­i­cal con­text as the per­sonal re­la­tion­ship mends; there may well be a few more twists and turns to come our way.

Time and the hour have surely run through their rough­est day. And per­haps it will just be a mat­ter of time be­fore the wounds are healed com­pletely. The PM will find it far from easy to quickly re­store the vis­i­ble in­flu­ence en­joyed by Ta­reen in the past.

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