• Maleeka, Musarrat and Jamshed Cheema latest faces to part ways with Imran; Ejaz Chaudhry detained again
• PML-Q welcomes eight politicians, including Ayesha Gulalai

 PTI leaders Maleeka Bukhari (left) and Jamshed and Musarrat Cheema announced their decisions to leave the party in separate pressers.—Tanveer Shahzad
PTI leaders Maleeka Bukhari (left) and Jamshed and Musarrat Cheema announced their decisions to leave the party in separate pressers.—Tanveer Shahzad

ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: The streak of defections from the PTI continued on Thursday, as at least nine party leaders turned their backs on Imran Khan in light of the violence that engulfed the country following his arrest on May 9.

Maleeka Bukhari, Jamshed Iqbal Cheema and his wife Musarrat, Malik Akram Kanhon, Javed Ansari, Dr Muhammad Afzal, Chaudhry Ehsanul Haq, Ch Jehanzeb Rasheed, and Saeed Akbar Niwani along with his entire group became the latest leaders to part ways with the former ruling party.

In a press conference held at the National Press Club, Mr and Ms Cheema parted ways with the PTI and also quit mainstream politics in the wake of violent protests. They also criticised the May 9 incidents and said that they were ready to face consequences as they were also responsible for being the leaders of the party.

“It was our failure that we could not control the workers. Mob should not have entered the military installations and I feel bad when I see the pictures of martyrs,” Mr Cheema said. Musarrat Cheema said that she had joined politics to serve the people but things took a wrong turn. “If it would have been possible for us, we would bring the time back.”

“My son is 11 years old and a cancer survivor and has health issues. He never lived alone so I quit the PTI and will continue to serve the country in some other sector,” she said. “To me my husband and my family are important. We have never talked against the army and want a prosperous Pakistan,” she added.

Replying to a question about telephone conversations with the party chief on May 9, she said that Mr Khan called her from a landline and she talked to him 11 times. “We both knew that every word was being recorded. Imran Khan was worried about his family and I was giving assurance that we are doing efforts to produce him in the court [after his arrest],” she said.

Maleeka leaves PTI

Before the Cheemas’ departure, Maleeka Bukhari held a presser announcing her split with the PTI. She, however, claimed there was no pressure on her to say goodbye to the former ruling party. She said PTI leaders and workers “had crossed a red line on May 9” and demanded action against those who attacked military installations.

Maleeka Bukhari, who was released from jail on Thursday, said Pakistan needed peace and stability for economic growth and urged people to reset their priorities. She also admitted that it was too difficult to pass time in jail in May.

Multan ticket holders quit

In Multan, PTI ticketholders for Punjab Assembly quit the party and returned the tickets as well. Javed Ansari, a former MPA and close aide of Shah Mehmood Qureshi held a press conference at the Multan Press Club and said that he had returned the party ticket for PP-212 over May 9 riots.

Mr Ansari said he would decide his political future after “consulting friends”. His defection was followed by another former MPA from Multan’s Jalalpur Pirwala region. At his presser, Malik Akram Kanhon parted ways with the PTI and also returned the ticket. He said that the conduct of the PTI was “irresponsible” after the arrest of Mr Khan. While replying to a query about his future politics, Mr Kanhon said that the people of his constituency will “decide his political future”.

In Bahawalpur, two more former MPAs, Dr Muhammad Afzal (PP-248) and Ch Ehsanul Haq (PP-247), who were members of the Parvez Elahi camp, quit the PTI. With their departure, the number of the former MPAs who have distanced themselves from the PTI in the district has risen to three. It may be noted that Dr Afzal and Mr Haq were issued tickets by the PTI chairman on the recommendation of Parvez Elahi.

In Rahim Yar Khan, former MNA Khawaja Qutab Fareed Koreja, who is also known as Ghulam Rasool Koreja, from Liaquatpur left PTI. Mr Koreja joined the PTI four months ago; he has now re-joined the PPP. In a media talk, he said that his family was associated with the PPP for a long time and he had close relations with Makhdoom Syed Ahmed Mehmood, PPP’s south Punjab president. A PTI ticketholder from Liaquatpur, Chaudhary Jehanzeb Rasheed, also left the PTI and active politics in light of the crackdown on the party.

Ejaz Ch detained again

Earlier in the day, PTI leader Ejaz Chaudhry was taken into custody by the Punjab police as he walked out of the jail. Senator Chaudhry, who is the additional secretary general, was in jail under Section 3 of the MPO for 15 days and was released on the orders of the Islamabad High Court. However, he was taken into custody by the police soon after his release.

Ejaz Chaudhry’s family waited outside the jail for his release, but the senator was re-arrested after his release and whisked away by security officials in a ‘private’ vehicle.

Separately in a tweet, the PTI chairman urged the chief justice of Pakistan to “ensure” the safety of his close aide Murad Saeed. “Just like Arshad Sharif, there are agencies out to kill him. I urge you to do whatever is within your means to protect his life,” Mr Khan said.

PML-Q welcomes Gulalai

Meanwhile, eight politicians including Ayesha Gulalai, Saleem Briar and Abdullah Yusuf Warraich, joined the Pakistan Mus­lim League (PML-Q). At a joint news conference at the Muslim League House in Lahore, the PML-Q leadership extended a warm welcome to the politicians.

Chaudhry Shujaat Hus­sain expressed his party’s willingness to engage in dialogue with all political parties. He claimed thousands of individuals had joined the party ranks, indicating growing support for the political party based in Lahore.

Mohammad Asghar in Rawalpindi, Imran Gabol in Lahore, Irfanul Haq in Rahim Yar Khan, and Majeed Gill in Bahawalpur also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2023

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