Why are Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Jahangir Tareen publicly sparring now?

Qureshi and Tareen are openly bickering again. Could this be about the upcoming by-polls in PP 217?

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Qureshi and Tareen are openly bickering again. Could this be about the upcoming by-polls in PP 217? Photo: File 

It must have been a tense afternoon in the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) ranks yesterday, as two of its heavyweights began sparring publicly.

The backstory is unclear. No one, at the moment, is certain what started the spat. Or why Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s foreign minister and a senior leader of the PTI, upbraided Jahangir Khan Tareen, also from the PTI, for attending official meetings. Tareen’s presence in cabinet gatherings, he added, “was a contempt of court”.

Last year, Tareen was disqualified by the Supreme Court for being “dishonest” and barred from holding any public office for life.

It is no secret that the two men aren’t exactly on the best of terms. Reports of their rift, in public and private, have been making the rounds since a while now.

Last year, a month before the national election, Qureshi hit out against Tareen. Without naming Tareen, he said that he didn’t consider someone as competition if that person could not contest an election. After the jibe, Tareen advised Qureshi to refrain from taking the party’s internal divisions public.

But that was then. Why is Qureshi still nursing a grudge?

There could be many reasons, but one point of contention is clearly PP-217 – a provincial constituency in Multan – since 2018.

Last year, Qureshi contested both from a national and provincial assembly seat from his hometown in Multan, Punjab. That, however, was never the initial plan. The seasoned politician had first decided to only contest the parliament constituency, and for the provincial seat – PP-217 – he promised to back his favoured man, Salman Naeem.

But close to the ballot, Qureshi changed his mind and decided to contest PP-217 himself. The slot for the chief minister Punjab, a coveted post, was open for the taking if the PTI came to power. And with Tareen out of the way, it could be his, or so he thought.

Naeem was slighted at Qureshi’s change of mind. The former sought out Jahangir Khan Tareen, who, reportedly, assured him of his support and advised him to contest as an independent. Naeem did. He won with over 3,000 votes, in turn crushing Qureshi’s dreams of being the chief minister of Punjab.

Soon after the elections, Naeem joined PTI. The lawmaker was appointed a special assistant on transport to the current chief minister Punjab, Usman Buzdar.

Bygones could have been bygones, had the election tribunal not denotify Naeem for misstating his age on the nomination papers. He was underage at the time of the election. A candidate must be 25-years-old or older to contest.

Naeem then sought relief from the Lahore High Court Multan Bench, but last month that too was rejected.

Now, the Election Commission of Pakistan has announced to hold by-election in the PP-217 constituency. The date for the polls has yet to be announced.

This could be another shot at success for Shah Mahmood Qureshi, especially since Buzdar isn’t working so well in Punjab. But again, is Tareen the roadblock?