ISLAMABAD: The recent desertions from the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) triggered a domino effect in the party, with its mouthpiece Fawad Chaudhry and two former lawmakers from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab becoming the latest to part ways with the Imran Khan-led party on account of the violence that transpired on May 9, following the arrest of the former prime minister.
Similarly, Asad Umar, a close aide and head of Mr Khan’s economic team, stepped down from his party office in light of the crackdown on the former ruling party.
Mr Umar, however, did not quit the party like his former colleagues Shireen Mazari, Fayyazul Hassan Chohan and several others who bid adieu to the PTI in recent days.
According to Asad Umar, he was not quitting the party offices “under pressure” — a statement in contrast to claims made by the PTI chairman, who accused the powers that be of coercing members to exit.
Addressing a press conference at the National Press Club, the PTI leader said he remained the secretary general of the party for 17 months, of which the past 13 were “the most difficult time” for the PTI. He said that thousands of innocent workers were under arrest and they should be released at the earliest.
He said he had spent 15 days in jail and added that everyone had condemned the riots as shocking. “I would say a transparent inquiry should be held as thousands of persons are under arrest [for alleged role in violence]. Those who were involved should be punished,” he said.
Mr Umar claimed that the “good thing is that the chief justice of Pakistan has been suggesting [political parties to] hold dialogue, the Corps Commander conference and friends of Pakistan also want a political solution to the current issue.
The PTI leader said that he had no pressure to quit the party and that is why he decided to resign from party positions and will remain associated with the party. He claimed that PTI was the most popular party in Pakistan and it was yet to see if May 9 riots had affected the party or not.
Fawad leaves Imran’s side
Fawad Chaudhry, who was the senior vice president of the PTI, also parted ways with Imran Khan in a tweet posted on his Twitter on Wednesday. Mr Chaudhry, who went to Jhelum after being released from jail, had not given any statement till now.
“Ref. my earlier statement where I unequivocally condemned 9th May incidents, I have decided to take a break from politics, therefore, I have resigned from party position and parting ways from [sic] Imran Khan,” he said in a tweet while referring to his media talk after release from jail.
Since the crackdown on the PTI following May 9, Mr Chaudhry had spent two days – separately – on the premises of courts to avoid arrest.
Last week, as he was leaving the Islamabad High Court, he dashed to the court after seeing policemen outside the court and did not leave the premises for several hours. Eventually, he held a media talk outside the court and condemned the violence as well as expressed support for the Pakistan Army in wake of attacks on its property. Later, he was allowed to go home.
Nadia Sher quits PTI
In KP, ex-MPA Nadia Sher also quit the party, saying did not want to associate with a party which had allegedly attacked military installations.
Addressing a press conference at the National Press Club in Islamabad, she ruled out any “pressure” behind her decision and said that she had made up her mind right after the attacks on military installations on May 9.
Ms Sher, who became a PTI MPA in 2013 on a reserved seat, also criticised the former prime minister for defying the party rules and taking key decisions on his own which led to the current crisis.
“I am resigning from PTI membership without any pressure or temptation. I have nothing to do with this party anymore,” she said.
In another development, MNA Usman Khan Tarakai had a meeting with Pakistan Peoples Party chief Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and announced joining the PPP.
Mr Tarakai, who was earlier in PTI, requested the PPP chief for a public meeting in Swabi. The request was accepted and a public meeting in the area would be held soon.
Another Multan MPA parts ways
In Multan, former MPA and ticketholder for PP-212 Malik Saleem Akhtar Labar returned the ticket as well as announced his decision to part ways with the PTI.
In a press conference at Multan Press Club, the former lawmaker said that he had returned the party ticket for PP-212 over PTI’s alleged involvement in violent protests in reaction to the arrest of the party chief, Imran Khan on May 9.
Mr Labar said that he had tried to stop the workers on May 9 not to do violent protests but no one had listened to him. “I am not leaving the party due to any pressure,” he replied to a query from the journalists.
Last week, PTI eight former MPAs announced quitting the party over May 9 incidents including Zaheeruddin Khan Alizai, Aun Dogar, Abdul Hai Dasti, Malik Mujtaba Niaz Gishkori, Alamdar Husain Qureshi, Sajjad Hussain Cheena and Sardar Qaisar Abbas Khan Magsi and Ashraf Rind.
Qasim Suri’s family denounces violence
In Quetta, PTI leader Qasim Suri’s family distanced itself from the PTI and also condemned the May 9 violence. Hashim Khan Suri, the younger brother of the PTI leader, announced this while speaking at a press conference on Wednesday.
“We have nothing to do with Pakistan Tehreek Insaf and are peaceful and patriotic citizens of Pakistan.”
He said that his younger brother Bilal Khan Suri was arrested after the May 9 incident despite the fact that he has nothing to do with politics. “Please, don’t drag us in the polities,” Hashim Suri said, adding that only his elder brother Qasim Suri was associated with the PTI. He said that Qasim Khan Suri also does not believe in the politics of violence, attacks on national institutions and burning of public and private properties.
Saleem Shahid in Quetta and Imran Gabol in Lahore also contributed to this report