Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) MNA Ayesha Gulalai announced her exit from the party on Tuesday amid a flurry of scathing allegations against party chairman Imran Khan and other top party members.
Gulalai made the announcement moments before the election of a new prime minister earlier today, citing 'ill-treatment' of women in the party as the reason behind her decision, saying she had communicated her grievances to the party leadership but no action had been taken.
The timing of her announcement to various TV channels was met with suspicion, with speculation that Gulalai may be joining the PML-N amid rumours that she had held a meeting with a leader of the party in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Amir Muqam, recently. Gulalai in a press conference later today rubbished the rumours, saying she was not leaving the PTI to join the PML-N.
The MNA, who hails from Waziristan and was elected to the Lower House on a reserved seat for women from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, claimed that the culture being promoted by certain party leaders was not in line with Pakthtun cultural values.
"Women workers are not respected in the PTI and a respectable woman worker cannot remain in the party," she told DawnNews.
Gulalai, who is a former PPP member, and has been a staunch and vocal supporter of the PTI and Imran Khan, often featuring in prime time talkshows to defend party policies, will be resigning from both her party membership and NA seat.
A rebuttal from PTI's Shireen Mazari followed Gulalai's initial announcement, with the PTI's chief whip in the NA claiming that the PTI worker was disgruntled after being denied a party ticket in the upcoming General Election from the NA-1 constituency.
Mazari alleged Gulalai had called on PTI Chairman Imran Khan yesterday evening, along with a delegation, demanding he confirm the party ticket, which, Mazari said, was 'unacceptable' as Khan was not allowed to take unilateral decisions in this regard.
Mazari also claimed Gulalai had resorted to levelling false allegations against the party and personal attacks against Khan upon failure to acquire the ticket.
She observed that it was strange for Gulalai to switch loyalties to the PML-N for the sake of respect, as the ruling party disrespects women and calls them names in the NA.
"As far as allegations that she was restrained from addressing a convention on Monday are concerned, we had limited the speakers. Khan also asked me to address it, but I put Yasmeen Rashid forward. We were not able to provide all aspiring speakers to provide with an opportunity to do so," she explained.
Gulalai alleges inappropriate behaviour, corruption in PTI
Gulalai addressed a press conference later in the evening to rubbish Mazari's claims, saying the chief whip's reasoning that she was leaving the party over the matter of a ticket seemed "illogical" and "strange".
Responding to Mazari's allegation that she was upset over not being allowed to speak at a rally, Gulalai said that there had been many rallies during which she had not spoken. "I can do that in the Assembly if I wish," she claimed.
However, she said Mazari has "always had issues"... "whenever I have spoken up about foreign policy in the NA... Perhaps she thinks only she retains the right to speak about foreign policy."
"Today people are joining the PTI and I am leaving it, so obviously something has happened that has caused me to leave the party," she said.
"Before the PTI, I was a member of the PPP. When I came into the PTI, I encountered a very different environment," she said.
The PTI MNA said she was "shocked" when she heard the words Khan used for slain PPP leader Benazir Bhutto.
"When I was in the PPP... Benazir Bhutto gave me two party tickets for MNA and for MPA. I was very young at the time, and she gave me the tickets on the basis of talent and potential. But their [the PTI's] criteria for tickets is "something else".
"Maybe I am incapable of fulfilling this criteria," she added.
"I was shocked," she continued. "I saw many of their [PTI members'] misdeeds. One of them is that they send inappropriate text messages. They dishonour respectable women. The respect of women is not intact at the hands of Imran Khan and the men around him," she alleged.
When asked about the content of the messages, she replied, "No one with any honour will be able to stomach the sort of language used."
"He [Khan] tells women to keep BlackBerry phones so that messages are not traced. Check his BlackBerry," she alleged. "Check the messages from him... The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority can release the record."
"Maybe they think Pakistan is England. At this age, you [Khan] have not been able to reform your habits, maybe you do not have control over your behaviour," she added.
"They said I was going to join the PML-N. I am not going to join that party," she clarified. "I will say only that you could make all sorts of allegations against Nawaz Sharif, but he will never be accused of jeopardising the honour of our mothers, sisters and daughters."
According to Articles 62 and 63, she said, if a leader is dishonest he is disqualified. "The article also refers to moral turpitude," she said. "I request the Supreme Court to consider my statements during the course of the disqualification case against Imran Khan."
"Such a man should be disqualified. Should such a man be eligible to run the country?" she questioned.
"I am on social media less, and on the ground more," she claimed. "They are on social media more. That is where they want to bring 'change'."
In addition to not attending party meetings as she was busy "on the ground", and because of the allegedly inappropriate behaviour of party members, Gulalai claimed she stopped doing so as the meetings were full of "mudslinging".
"Their only mode of performance is mudslinging," she claimed. "In our meetings, Imran Khan tells us how to attack our opponents... And how to besmirch their names," she alleged.
Gulalai said she was saddened to note that "small workers" of the party were not considered to have any worth by the party's leadership.
"You [Khan] sit in Bani Gala, but your workers are beaten, they are teargassed and shelled and killed, and then you call them 'small workers'," she said.
"I think Imran Khan has issues because he is jealous of talented people. He thinks they are a threat. Because of this, many men run from him. He has other methods with women," she alleged.
"The criteria to get a party ticket from Imran Khan is if you laugh at his jokes, if you wear the same slippers or clothes as him, if you go running with him... That's how you curry his favour," she claimed. "The people who do the real work are not favoured."
"PTI MNAs, who are elected representatives, are not given any importance... and are treated with contempt."
Gulalai also accused KP Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak and Jahangir Tareen of allegedly being involved in corrupt practices in the province. She claimed she had gone to Khan with a delegation of workers, not to secure a party ticket, but to provide evidence of corruption in various schemes in the province.
"Imran Khan kept all the evidence to one side," she claimed. "I don't know if Khattak is holding something over him, or if Imran Khan is involved as well," she added.
"He [Khan] thinks he is very smart and all Pakistanis are dumb, like a herd of sheep. I will only say this to Imran Khan ─ the Pakhtun people will not forgive you."
"I don't attend party meetings in Bani Gala. I have been angry for a very long time," she claimed when asked about the timing of her press conference.
"I was so disheartened, I removed myself from politics but remained working on the ground," she added.
Another female politician, Naz Baloch, had quit the party earlier this month to join PPP claiming that only male members were given importance and women party workers were kept at a distance while the youth was restricted only to social media. She was also disappointed with the lack of party presence in Karachi and Sindh.
Baloch, while speaking to DawnNews today said that in her personal experience, she had never received any inappropriate text messages. However, if such an incident happened, she said, she would have left the party right away.
PPP Senator Sherry Rehman tweeted that Gulalai's "rebuke adds to the disquiet about a woman's place in the party".