Estranged PTI leader Jahangir Tareen on Wednesday said the likeminded “group” of party lawmakers supporting him was formed in response to Punjab government's retaliatory actions.
However, the former PTI general secretary refuted reports of a division in the party.
“We have not formed a forward bloc. We have appointed a focal person [Sardar Saeed Akbar Khan Niwani] to represent us in the [Punjab] assembly,” he told reporters outside a Lahore court, where he appeared in connection with the money laundering case registered against him.
“The prime minister had promised to deliver us with justice but then the Punjab government began acts of retaliation against us," he claimed.
"We decided that we will raise our voice in the Punjab Assembly. The entire responsibility [of this development] lies on the Punjab government."
However, he conceded that the group of like-minded lawmakers of the party had existed for around three months.
Refuting media reports, he said: "Let me make it clear that we are and will continue to remain part of the PTI."
Tareen demanded that the Punjab government must immediately stop its pressure tactics against his group including transfers.
“My bail has been extended till May 31, and the FIA [Federal Investigation Authority] has been asked to complete its probe,” he elaborated.
"We have submitted a complete money trail to the FIA, which is now verifying it with the banks," he added.
"I will reiterate that none of the three FIRs mention sugar [scandal]. The ongoing probe and the scandal have no connection.”
Tareen pointed out that there were two issues: one about him and the FIR, for which his allies were accompanying him. The other was about the Punjab government's actions.
"When they [members of his group] met the prime minister, he appointed Ali Zafar with the task to meet both us and the FIA and ensure justice by determining the reality of the issue,” he explained.
He added that Zafar had held a meeting with his group.
“I hope that his report will soon be unveiled or sent directly to the prime minister, so that this matter can be taken forward.”
Earlier in the day, a court approved extending the bail of the estranged PTI leader and his son, Ali Tareen, till May 31.
Tareen, accompanied by several PTI leaders, including Awn Chaudry, reached the court.
Additional Sessions Judge Hamid Hussain asked the FIA about the progress of its investigation.
An FIA representative told the judge that transactions involving a lot of money had taken place and the authority was still examining the matter.
The FIA also submitted its report to the court.
An FIA SHO told the court that a suspect, Amjad Pervez, had not been interrogated yet.
He added that the federal probe body had obtained 90% of the records it needed.
Salman Safdar, the lawyer representing Tareen, told the court that the FIA was seeking records for the year 2008-09 but offices were closed because of Eid holidays.
“We have an entire volume [of documents] to prove my client's innocence,” he added.
MNA Raja Riaz, a member of the Tareen's group, maintained that five PTI MNAs from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa had also joined them and talks were under way with provincial lawmakers.
He told The Express Tribune that the names of the MNAs would be disclosed at the right time.
“For the time being it's not necessary, but we can form a group of like-minded lawmakers in the K-P Assembly too if needed,” he added.
Riaz has been assigned the task to reach out to the lawmakers in K-P.
A day earlier, Tareen launched a group of like-minded lawmakers in the lower house of parliament as well as the Punjab Assembly at a dinner he hosted for his supporters.
Riaz will be the parliamentary leader of Tareen’s like-minded group in the National Assembly, while Niwani will be the parliamentary leader in the Punjab Assembly.
Noman Langarial, one of the supporters of Tareen, who attended the dinner, said that 31 lawmakers attended the event. Punjab Assembly MPA Salman Naeem said during the dinner that supporters of Tareen decided to formally launch their own group.
Last month, talking to a delegation of some pro-Tareen lawmakers, Prime Minister Imran Khan had categorically said the FIA would not be influenced to give relief to the disgruntled leader in the sugar scam probe but he would personally look into the matter to avoid any political victimisation in the case.
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