LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: The ranks of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) were further depleted on Friday after former Punjab cabinet members Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan and Murad Raas, among a dozen leaders, announced their decision to leave the party as they did not support the May 9 attacks on state buildings and army installations.
Senator Saifullah Nyazee, ex-MNA Khurram Shahzad and singer Abrarul Haq also announced a parting of ways with the PTI for the same reason. Meanwhile, a former adviser to the KP CM and two PTI MPAs from Karachi and a cohort of leaders from Punjab also made similar announcements on Friday.
In keeping with the practice witnessed over the past week, all the departing faces held press conferences in various parts of the country to publicly announce their decision to leave the party.
A former federal information minister, Dr Awan told a presser at the National Press Club in Islamabad that “Imran Khan and Pakistan can’t function together”.
She stated that she had been in “self-imposed exile” from the PTI over the last year over differences with the narrative of party chief Imran Khan, adding that she was parting ways with the PTI over the party’s “violent and terrorist activities”.
The former federal minister termed Mr Khan’s agenda ‘poison for Pakistan’, adding that she was also a victim of this agenda.
“Imran Khan becomes an enemy to his friends first,” she said, claiming that he uses people like “tissue papers” and then discards them once “his work is done”.
Meanwhile, a teary-eyed Murad Raas blamed Mr Khan’s advisers in Lahore for bringing the party to this point as he announced his decision to leave. He claimed he never thought this day would come when he would be parting ways with Imran Khan.
He said that no one wanted a fight with the institutions and termed the May 9 protests as “overboard agitation”. He said there were differences of opinion and that could have been solved by sitting down together.
“This country belongs to everyone, we have to stay here and we can’t bring people from elsewhere to negotiate. We have to negotiate with people in the country and take things forward,” he said.
The former provincial minister said he had decided to form a group of like-minded people. “My doors are open for all, we want more like-minded people,” he said.
Meanwhile, one of Mr Khan’s trusted lieutenants, Senator Saifullah Khan Nyazee, also condemned the violence that was witnessed on May 9. He too bid farewell to the PTI, saying: “I need to focus on my life, especially my family and health.”
PTI leader and singer Abrarul Haq also decided to leave the party on Friday, saying that he wanted to make it clear that he condemned the events of May 9 and that he was quitting politics altogether.
Former MNA and deputy secretary-general from Faisalabad, Khurram Shahzad, also announced a parting ways with Mr Khan for the same reason.
Moved to tears as he condemned the May 9 riots, Mr Shahzad said: “I entered politics 11 years ago. I have now decided to resign.”
While he was at pains to clarify that he was not jumping ship under duress, he claimed he would continue to serve the country and not go abroad.
He said he came from a respectable and patriotic business family and could never support attacks on armed forces installations and insulting the images of martyrs, as had happened on May 9.
Separately, at a joint news conference, former PTI MPAs Dewan Azmat, Tariq Irshad, Irshad Kathia, Faisal Jalal Dhakku and Farrukh Mumtaz Maneka also announced their decision to dissociate themselves from the PTI.
Meanwhile in Peshawar, Karak-based former MPA Malik Qasim held a presser to announce his decision to bid adieu to the PTI.
Addressing a press conference at the Peshawar Press Club on Friday, Mr Qasim, who was an adviser to former chief minister Pervaiz Khattak, said that he took the decision on his own without any pressure.
Flanked by Khalid Riyaz Khattak, Nasreen Khattak, Farhad Khattak and others, he said he felt it necessary to say goodbye to the PTI as he could not be part of the party any longer.
Mr Qasim claimed that while he could not win the 2018 elections due to rigging by opponents, during the PTI government Rs11 billion were spent in Karak on different uplift schemes, but promises of supply of natural gas to the people remained unfulfilled.
He alleged that corruption was rampant in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and that, in the prevailing situation, he wanted to resign from PTI.
Simultaneously, in Karachi, two more MPAs - Syed Muhammad Abbas Jafri and Rabia Azfar Nizami – announced their decision to leave the party.
Mr Jafri, who is the youth wing president of the party’s Sindh chapter, said that he was resigning from the assembly, party position and its basic membership.
“Pakistan army is actually a foundation of Pakistan,” he said. “The foundations are never to be touched. I have already condemned the May 9 violence and I condemn it again... My father is critically ill and under treatment at an ICU. Right now, he needs me more. I would decide my political future later.”
Taking to a Twitter, Ms Nizami said she couldn’t “risk” her children for a “political adventure”.
“I hereby announce leaving PTI, all official positions and politics and would explore alternate route to serve the purpose I care for,” she said.
Meanwhile, Mr Khan’s legal advisor and party leader Dr Babar Awan left for London, giving rise to speculation that he too had flown the coop. But in a statement issued later, he clarified that Imran Khan was still his leader, and that he was heading to London on a private visit.
Tariq Saeed in Toba Tek Singh, Ali Hazrat Bacha in Peshawar and Imran Ayub in Karachi also contributed to this report
Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2023