• Many named on negotiation committee still imprisoned or in hiding
• Omar Ayub becomes new secretary-general, Raoof Hasan made info secretary
• Imran says he never gave orders for vandalism on May 9
LAHORE: Shortly after an internal reshuffle of office-bearers, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) on Saturday constituted a seven-member “negotiation committee” without any explanation of who the committee will negotiate with.
The notification came out of the blue after the incumbent government slammed PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s May 25 “offer” to constitute a negotiation committee to hold dialogue with the powers that be.
Only a day earlier, Mr Khan had made another impassioned appeal to state institutions to immediately sit with his party, talk and find a solution to put the country on the path of progress.
However, both Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb and PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif snubbed the PTI chief’s move, saying that talks could only be held with political forces, not ‘saboteurs or terrorists’.
Soon after the PTI chief notified Omar Ayub Khan as the party’s new secretary-general — replacing Asad Umar — the new secretary, constituted a seven-member committee for talks, on the party chief’s instructions. The team will consist of Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Pervez Khattak, Asad Qaiser, Haleem Adil Sheikh, Aon Abbas Buppi, Murad Saeed and Hammad Azhar.
But a number of PTI leaders Dawn spoke to expressed their surprise over the formation of this committee, and some pointed out that many of the leaders named as part of the negotiation committee were either in jail or in hiding to avoid arrest.
Seemingly putting up a brave face in the face of what he has already termed “excesses” committed by the incumbent rulers against his party, the PTI chief had a busy day re-filling the offices vacated by those who succumbed to ‘pressure’ and announced a parting of ways with his party.
While his opponents created several ‘Wall(s) of Shame’ in Rawalpindi, portraying PTI leaders as traitors, PTI chief Imran Khan expressed his resolve to bounce back.
Mr Khan told senior journalists at his Zaman Park residence that he held no grudge against the army and he was getting ready to spring some big surprises in the days to come. “This trying time is all set to change,” Mr Khan was quoted as saying by one of the participants.
The former prime minister re-asserted that the solution to the plethora of crises being faced by Pakistan lay in holding fresh elections to bring a public-mandated government – empowered enough to take strong decisions, both internally and externally.
The PTI chief has been constantly expressing the apprehension that some quarters were planning to eliminate him by either arresting, disqualifying or even killing him. On Saturday, however, the PTI chief said in so many words that in his absence, Vice-Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi would lead the party, aided by Pervez Khattak and other senior leaders.
Commenting on the series of defections that continue to deplete his party’s ranks, Mr Khan said some had been pressurised, while some party leaders had been exposed.
He went on saying that the youth was his party’s asset and they deserved tickets for the next elections. He claimed once again that the PTI would sweep elections, whenever they would be held.
Responding to questions about the violent events of May 9, Mr Khan said he could say on oath that he never instructed anyone to go for vandalism or arson.
“I didn’t even think about violent protests when I survived the assassination attempt during the long march in Wazirabad,” he said and asked how he could instruct such violent attacks after being arrested.
“The violence, vandalism and arson attack is an outcome of dirty planning,” he said, adding that the whole nation was standing behind him and he could win any election, any time. “Hold a referendum and you will see the result yourself,” he added.
The PTI chief said that he was holding meetings with his legal team to make efforts to secure the release of incarcerated party leaders and workers, adding that President Dr Arif Alvi would continue working in line with the Constitution.
Meanwhile, PTI appointed columnist Raoof Hasan as the party’s new information secretary. Expressing his gratitude to the PTI chief for reposing trust in him, Mr Hasan said he would try to redefine the party’s relations with media and its functionaries across the board.
Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2023