Thursday, October 15, 2020

Did someone secretly bug Jahangir Tareen, his family and his businesses?

The allegation has been strongly denied by Shahzad Akbar, who has described it as 'fiction'

Former PTI Secretary-General Jahangir Tareen speaks to PM Imran Khan in this undated file photo. Tareen has been ousted from the PM's close circle after what he says was an organised conspiracy against him. 

LONDON: Former Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) secretary general Jahangir Khan Tareen was allegedly spied on by two government-controlled departments tasked by his own party to do the job, sources say.

Government officials, however, have roundly denied the claim. 

The sources claimed that two departments — neither linked to any defence organisation or the armed forces — monitored Tareen's activities, his family and his business interests over several weeks. 

Tareen’s residences in Islamabad and Lodhran were allegedly bugged, as were his sugar mills and other business interests. His activities — including meetings with politicians, businessmen and friends — were monitored and phone calls taped, the sources claimed. Phone calls of all the members of his family were also allegedly recorded.

Three weeks ago, a team from the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) had raided the head office of Tareen’s sugar mill and seized office records. It is not clear whether the raid was linked to the bugging operation or not.

'This is news for me'

Shahzad Akbar — who has key influence in his capacity as advisor to the PM on Accountability and Interior — rejected the bugging allegations in conversation with this reporter, describing them as “fiction”.

Akbar said that the allegation that Tareen and his family were spied on was “news” for him.

“All concerns of those who were subject of the Sugar Commission inquiry [including Tareen] were raised by them in multiple cases before various high courts as well as the Supreme Court of Pakistan. None [of them were] found worth an order in their favour. The rest is just fiction,” he said.

Tareen has nothing to fear

A close confidante of Tareen shared that the businessman has nothing to fear, "as each and every detail of his business is available on the records and available with all the relevant authorities in Pakistan."

When Tareen was asked about whether his family and his businesses were spied on, he would not go into details but did not deny the assertion that his family may have been targeted.

Tareen did, however, make it clear that he felt he was unfairly singled out and maligned for no reason. 

He said a circle within Prime Minister House had done "everything" to create misunderstanding between him and Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Tareen has in the past blamed PM’s Principal Secretary Azam Khan for being the chief architect behind a sustained campaign to discredit him.

Other PTI lawmakers who are loyal to Tareen have pointed their fingers at Asad Umar, Shahzad Akbar, Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Zulfi Bukhari. 

They say these politicians were among those who had gone after Tareen amidst a larger power struggle within the party as soon the PTI formed its government in the Centre and Punjab. 

All of the individuals named above have denied that they conspired against their former colleague.

'Couldn't be where we are without him'

The PTI lawmakers who are loyal to Tareen claim that some within the party were not comfortable with Tareen because of his business smarts and his ability to get things moving.

PTI leaders Raja Riaz, Pervaiz Khattak, Asad Qaisar and Fawad Chaudhary are among those who have publicly spoken in defence of Tareen.

Speaking to this correspondent, Fawad Chaudhary said he was not aware if Tareen and family had been spied on, but he said he paid tribute to the sugar baron.

“Tareen played a huge role in the development of PTI and we would not be where we are today without Tareen’s contribution,” he said.

In political no man's land

Tareen is in London these days for medical treatment. He reached here around three months ago with his son, Ali Khan Tareen, and has been living just outside of London ever since. He has kept a low profile throughout. 

Once the closest confidante of Prime Minister Imran Khan and the main sponsor of PTI's operations, the former PTI Secretary General is aggrieved at the way he has been treated by those who are considered eyes and ears of PM Imran Khan. 

Meanwhile, the FIA has summoned him and his son in a case pertaining to money laundering and sugar mill fraud.

Ali, the son, was told to appear at the FIA's Lahore office on September 18, while the elder Tareen was summoned on September 19. 

Tareen, however, excused himself saying he will join the inquiry in person only after his medical treatment.

Nonetheless, he wrote in detail to answer every point the FIA had raised, along with providing 11 volumes of supporting documents.

Ali, too, sent a written reply to argue that he has never been on the Board of Directors of JDW Sugar Mill or in any executive management position. 

He has taken the position that the questions that have been put to him regarding the JDW's affairs are not, therefore, relevant to him.