The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf is considering installing an interim leadership at its city chapter, with the current city president, Aleem Khan, having stepped out of the public eye amidst a federal investigation into his alleged role in the Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution (EOBI) scandal, The Express Tribune has learnt.
The PTI Lahore president has missed several major party events since it emerged that he had sold two properties for Rs1.3 billion each in Park View and River Edge to the EOBI, which allegedly invested Rs180 billion in real estate in violation of its rules and without the approval of its board of trustees.
Khan’s associates in the real estate business, like Nazeer Chohan, another PTI city chapter office-bearer, have also not been seen at recent party events. Abdul Rashid Bhatti, who won the party election for Lahore general secretary earlier this year, quit the PTI in May after he was denied a party ticket for the general elections.
The PTI leadership is considering appointing an interim city president and general secretary, a senior party official said. The two offices have an important role to play in the upcoming local government elections, he said, adding that elections for a permanent city president and a general secretary would be held after that.
Shabbir Sial and MPA Mian Aslam Iqbal are reported to be keen to take over as interim city president, whereas Naeem Mir is said to be pushing for the general secretary slot.
Shortly after the Supreme Court took suo motu notice of the EOBI scandal and the Federal Investigation Agency started an inquiry, Khan filed an affidavit stating that he was willing to return the money received from the EOBI, provided he got the properties back. Talking to The Express Tribune at the time, Khan had said that he was simply trying to run a profitable business. “I am a businessman and I am open to selling property to anyone,” he said.
Earlier, Khan had been in regular contact with the press, issuing statements on various subjects four or five times a week. The PTI’s city president played no role in the party’s by-election campaign for one national and two provincial seats in Lahore.
He did not attending a single corner meeting or even come out to welcome PTI Chairman Imran Khan to the city. He was absent from the PTI ‘hunger strike camp’ set up in protest at alleged rigging at PP-150, and in the storm of media condemnation when several party leaders were arrested for protesting on The Mall. He was absent from an Eid Milan party addressed by PTI President Javed Hashmi and Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi on August 27, as well as from a party convention addressed by Imran Khan in Samanabad on August 29.
As the PTI’s city president, he would have been expected to play an active party in all these events.
Sources in the PTI said that Imran Khan was quite annoyed with Khan.
The party’s chairman had expressed disappointment with Khan before, when he and his allies had returned party tickets ahead of the elections in protest at the selection of PTI candidates. Now, the chairman felt that Khan’s alleged involvement in the irregularities at the EOBI had hurt the party’s reputation, the sources said.
PTI Punjab President Ejaz Chaudhry said Khan had told the party that he had taken time off to be with his mother, who was under medical treatment.
He said party office-bearers and workers had noticed his absence.
He said there were “some developments” regarding interim appointments, but did not elaborate.
PTI Lahore Senior Vice President Shoaib Siddiqui, a close friend of Khan, said that there was no party pressure on Khan. He said that Khan was out of town with his mother.
He added that Khan had returned the money he received from the EOBI and been given a clean chit about his role.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 31st, 2013.
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