PTI faces existential threat as more leaders quit

ISLAMABAD, May 25 : More leaders left the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), as desertion from the party continued on Thursday, while some senior party leaders were arrested and rearrested following their releases on court orders.

Maleeka Bokhari as well as Jamshed Cheema and Musarrat Jamshed Cheema made the announcement of their departure from the party in two separate news conferences in Islamabad, which were called hours after their releases from Adiala Jail.

Bokhari and the Cheemas, also condemned the May 9 riots in which several government buildings and sensitive military installations were attacked after the arrest of PTI Chairman Imran Khan in a graft case.

Bokhari, who was a member of the National Assembly from August 2018 to January 2023 and served as the parliamentary secretary for Law from September 2018 till April 2022, told the news conference that her decision to quit the PTI was not taken under any pressure.

“No one forced me to take this decision,” Bokhari said, condemning “strongly” the events of May 9.

“There should be a transparent investigation [into the May 9 attacks]. The miscreants involved in arson attacks and vandalising of military installations should be brought to justice according to the law,” she added.

When asked about her future plans after quitting the party and resigning from all the party positions, the former MNA said: “As a lawyer, I will continue to work for the improvement of the justice system.”

At another news conference in Islamabad, PTI leader Jamshed Cheema said that he and his wife, Musarrat Cheema, “can’t continue politics and their affiliation” with former prime minister Imran Khan’s party.

Cheema termed the events of May 9 “unacceptable”. The events, he added, “caused embarrassment for Pakistan” and damaged democracy and the party’s democratic credentials. Cheema said that they were also responsible for this failure.

Earlier, Senator Abdul Qadir, who was elected as an independent senator from BalochDAILYistan in 2021, declared his disassociation with the PTI. He added that he would now sit in the Senate as an independent member instead of aligning with the PTI.

Other media reports indicated that former Punjab Assembly members from Bahawalnagar, Mumtaz Ahmad Maharvi and Asif Manzoor Mohal, also joined the list of those who were quitting the former ruling party.

Also the Punjab police arrested PTI leader Col (retd) Ajmal Sabir under Section 3 of the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO), and rearrested party Senator Ejaz Chaudhry following his release from Adiala Jail.

The RA Bazaar police arrested Sabir and sent him to the Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi for 15 days. Meanwhile, the Lahore’s Gulberg police station presented Chaudhry in a court in Rawalpindi. The court ordered the police to present Chaudhry in a Lahore court.

Meanwhile, the PTI split in Multan district, as a new group called the PTI-Haqiqi led by the former president of the party’s district youth wing Rao Yasir emerged on Thursday.

Addressing a news conference, Yasir condemned the events of May 9, demanding severe punishment for those who were involved in it.

He said that the PTI-Haqiqi would endeavour for the release of innocent people arrested for the May 9 riots.

“He promised us a Naya (new) Pakistan. This Naya Pakistan did not happen but Imran Khan is bent upon destroying Pakistan through the youth. Everyone told Imran Khan about the corruption of his wife but he did not listen,” Yasir said.

The PTI has been feeling the heat’ since its workers burnt and smashed military installations, including the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi, and the Lahore corps commander’s residence during riots on May 9 and 10.

Several party leaders and thousands of workers have been rounded up in connection with the violent protests and the army has insisted that the people involved in attacks on military installations would be tried under the Army Act and the Official Secrets Act.

Several party leaders and lawmakers — including Shireen Mazari, Aamir Kiani, Amin Aslam, Mahmood Moulvi, Aftab Siddiqui, Fayyazul Hassan Chohan and others have announced leaving the former ruling party.

Asad Umar, one of the very close aides of Imran, relinquished his posts of the secretary general and core committee member, citing the ongoing situation. His announcement came hours after Fawad Chaudhry, another close confidant of Imran quit the PTI.

On the other hand, according to some other media reports, senior PTI leaders Dr Yasmin Rashid and Mehmoodur Rasheed have expressed their continued support for Imran Khan, reiterating their commitment to remain with the party.

“No! I am not leaving PTI,” Dr Yasmin Rashid responded to journalists’ queries outside an anti-terrorism court. Rasheed also expressed his support for the former prime minister. “Despite all challenges, we stand firmly with Imran Khan,” he said.

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