(Left) PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi is bundled into a vehicle by security personnel after being taken into custody yet again following his release from Adiala jail on Tuesday night; while former party spokesperson Shireen Mazari addresses a presser announcing her decision to quit the party and politics altogether. (Right) Security officials carrying ballistic shields escort the vehicle of PTI chief Imran Khan as he leaves an anti-terrorism court in Islamabad on Tuesday.—AFP
(Left) PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi is bundled into a vehicle by security personnel after being taken into custody yet again following his release from Adiala jail on Tuesday night; while former party spokesperson Shireen Mazari addresses a presser announcing her decision to quit the party and politics altogether. (Right) Security officials carrying ballistic shields escort the vehicle of PTI chief Imran Khan as he leaves an anti-terrorism court in Islamabad on Tuesday.—AFP

• Imran claims leaders being forced to exit ‘at gunpoint’
• Shireen Mazari, Fayyaz Chohan, members from Punjab and Karachi announce decision to part ways
• Qureshi vows to stay with PTI, detained again upon release from Adiala jail

ISLAMABAD: The Pak­is­tan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) witnessed a flurry of app­arent desertions after at least five leaders — including former human rights minister Shireen Mazari — bid the party adieu on Tuesday, with Imran Khan accusing the powers that be of using pre­ssure tactics to dismember his political party.

Since May 9, several members of the PTI, including former cabinet ministers Aamir Kiani and Malik Amin Aslam, have parted ways with Mr Khan over violence which also engulfed military installations. In an informal talk with court reporters at the Islamabad Judicial Complex, Mr Khan said the decisions by several PTI leaders to quit the party were coerced.

When asked why leaders were quitting PTI, Mr Khan replied, “People are not quitting; they are be­ing forced to leave the party at gunpoint.” He said: “The political parties could not be dismantled through such tactics,” add­ing that “a [political] party could only be ceased with depletion of its vote bank”.

In a tweet later in the evening, Imran Khan also likened these desertions to “forced divorces”.

“We had all heard about forced marriages in Pakistan but for PTI a new phenomenon has emerged, forced divorces,” the former premier said. He also took a dig at human rights groups, wondering “where have all the human rights organisations in the country disappeared?”

Mazari, Chohan leave PTI

Earlier in the day, Dr Shireen Mazari quit the PTI as well as active politics for the sake of her family, without uttering a single word against the party chairman. Dr Mazari’s decision came after she was arrested five times in connection with the May 9 violence over the span of almost two weeks.

In a news conference held at her residence in Islamabad, Dr Mazari condemned the violence and said she had given an undertaking of condemnation in the Islamabad High Court. She said that she never believed in violence and condemned attacks on military installations. She said she remained under arrest for 12 days, during which her daughter suffered a lot.

Fayyazul Hassan Chohan, a former provincial minister and PTI spokesperson, also quit the PTI because he “could not imagine speaking against the army”.

Mr Chohan also lashed out at his former boss and claimed that he had developed differences with the PTI chairman for the last year and the doors of Banigala and Zaman Park were closed for him. “Almost one year ago, I sent a WhatsApp to Mr Khan and also forwarded it to a journalist for the record. I don’t want to remain in a party which never cared about me,” he said.

The former minister said he was shocked over May 9 and 10 incidents. “My four family members, including me, were arrested and our houses were severely damaged by the officials of law enf­orcement agencies. When I was released from jail, I asked my family members if Mr Khan had spoken or tweeted in favour of me but I was shocked to know that he did not even bother to discuss my name,” he said.

Desertions in Punjab

Makhdoom Iftikhar Ali Gilani, a former PTI MPA from Uch Sharif, also announced his decision to quit the party in the backdrop of the May 9 violence in the country. Mr Gilani said that he has not yet decided to join any party, and for this purpose, he would consult his electorate.

Iftikhar Gilani had been in PML-N but in 2018 he managed to get a PTI ticket. Even now, PTI had nominated him as a party candidate and issued him a ticket to contest the election in Uch Sharif’s PP-250.

A former PTI MPA from Khanewal and existing ticket-holder from PP-209, Abdul Razzaq Niazi, in a press conference in Lahore, also parted ways with the PTI. He claimed that he did not quit the party under pressure. He also announced that he would return the PTI ticket to Imran Khan.

There were also reports that Jamshed Cheema and his wife Mussarat Cheema had also parted ways with the party. However the couple, who were incarcerated in Adiala jail, were re-arrested on Tuesday night after being released, alongside senior party leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

Qureshi, Cheemas detained again

Meanwhile, PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Jamshed Iqbal Cheema, and Musarrat Jamshed Cheema were detained by the Punjab police shortly after they were released from jail on the orders of the Islamabad High Court.

According to sources, Mr Qureshi, Mr Cheema and Musarrat Cheema were taken into custody by police soon after they were released from jail on Tuesday night after their detention orders were issued by the deputy commissioner.

The PTI leaders were subsequently moved to a police station in the Cantt area amid tight security instead of being shifted back to the Adiala jail.

While Mr Qureshi was being taken into custody by the police, journalists present outside the jail asked him whether he was being pressured to switch parties. He responded, “I was with PTI, and I still am, and I will continue to be with the party.”

Mr Qureshi’s daughter remained present outside the Jail and attempted to meet her father but she was not allowed a meeting. However, she managed to have some words with her father as he walked out of the jail gate.

Karachi chapter loses another couple of leaders

In Karachi, another duo of PTI MPAs, Omar Omari and Bilal Ahmed Ghaffar, also announced they were quitting the party. Mr Ghaffar also announced his decision to resign from the Sindh Assembly while condemning the May 9 protests.

In a video message on Twitter, Mr Ghaffar said he had been in a state of shock and mourning since the May 9 violence and had finally decided to quit politics as well.

Mr Omari wrote on Twitter he cannot “compromise on my beliefs or my ideals and my country. Therefore for now I bid farewell to this kind of politics and resign from PTI with a promise to return if and when my country needs me.”

Earlier on Sunday, party MNA and Karachi chapter president Aftab Siddiqui made the same decision citing similar grounds. Last week, the PTI MNA Mehmood Maulvi and MPAs Dr Sanjay Gangwani and Dr Imran Ali Shah quit the party and resigned from the assemblies.

Mohammad Asghar and Malik Asad in Islamabad, Imran Ayub in Karachi, Majeed Gill in Bahawalpur and Tariq Saeed in Toba Tek Singh contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, May 24th, 2023

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