Adviser to the P.M. on Sports and Tourism Awn Chaudhry—a longstanding ally of Jahangir Khan Tareen—on Wednesday announced that the former Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) stalwart’s new political party will be called the ‘Istehkam-e-Pakistan’ (IPP).
Reportedly, Tareen would formally announce the party’s formation, as well as its manifesto, in a press conference scheduled for today (Thursday).
On Wednesday night, Tareen’s efforts to stitch together his party became clear at a dinner hosted by Aleem Khan in Lahore. Featuring a virtual who’s who of politicians who have distanced themselves from the PTI following the May 9 riots, the dinner made it clear that IPP’s aim is to transplant the PTI and avail its vote-bank in the next general elections due for October. However, it remains unclear how many of the defectors—who are not seen too positively by PTI supporters—would be able to secure electoral victories without the backing of PTI chief Imran Khan.
It is also unclear what Tareen’s role in the new party would be; he was disqualified for life by the Supreme Court and is, thus, ineligible to lead it. However, much like former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, he could serve as “patron” of the new political party. A new law allowing for appeals to Supreme Court judgments could also benefit Tareen, potentially nullifying his disqualification, if he chooses to avail it.
In footage and pictures from the dinner hosted by Aleem Khan, Tareen could be seen hobnobbing with several PTI defectors, including those who had—just a few days earlier—claimed they were either exiting active politics entirely or were not joining any new party. Among the politicians who attended were Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, Ali Zaidi, Imran Ismail, Firdous Ashiq Awan, Mahmood Maulvi, Amir Kiyani, and Fayyazul Hassan Chohan. Murad Raas, who had earlier this week announced the formation of a ‘Democrats’ group, has also reportedly joined Tareen.
Most of the people defecting to Tareen’s camp are perceived to be pro-military, with pundits describing it as the new “king’s party” that could play a key role in determining who forms the next government in Punjab. On Wednesday, former PTI leaders Sajjad Bokhari, Tasneem Gardezi and Jahanzeb Warren from south Punjab all announced they were joining Tareen’s party. Earlier, Ali Gilani, Mumtaz Mahrvi, Azmat Chishti and Mehr Irshad Kathia, Maj (retd.) Khurram Rokhari and Usman Ashraf also said they were joining his group.
There has been a flurry of movement to secure the PTI’s defectors following the May 9 riots, particularly from Tareen, the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid). The Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) has largely stayed out of the fray, with its leaders saying they already have candidates in almost all constituencies and have no space to accommodate defectors.
Tareen served as the secretary-general of the PTI before his ouster from politics in 2017 and played a key role in helping the party form the government in Punjab by “convincing” independent lawmakers to join it rather than the PMLN, which numerically had the majority in the provincial assembly. However, his alliance with Imran Khan fell apart shortly after the PTI came into power, with the former prime minister subsequently accusing him of trying to avail “illegal benefits” from him.