• 35 ex-lawmakers have reportedly joined new group
• Chaudhry Raza, Ayesha Iqbal latest to jump ship
• PTI leader accuses police of looting daughter’s dowry

LAHORE: As the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf continues to crumble under the pressure of May 9 violence, some party legislators have become active in forming a new entity, while others are taking refuge in joining the established parties like PPP, PML-Q or the group led by Jahangir Khan Tareen.

Several PTI stalwarts and legislators have left the party and are now looking for new pastures to give a boost to their politics. The exodus continues, with two more former Punjab MPAs — Chaudhry Raza Nasrullah Ghumman and Ayesha Iqbal — parting ways with the PTI on Sunday.

The party has branded these deserters as opportunists, but claimed that they were leaving under pressure.

The PML-N has closed its doors to PTI defectors, as it had already faced humiliation after embracing those who deserted Mr Khan’s party earlier and offering them party tickets for by-elections.

However, PPP, PML-Q and the Tareen group have opened their doors wide and are welcoming the legislators to join them for “safe politics” ahead.

But other smaller groups have popped up as well. Former ministers Hashim Dogar and Murad Raas, who have also distanced themselves from the PTI, have formed a new group called “Democrats”.

A PTI legislator told Dawn that several party legislators were not able to “get their due price” as individuals, and that was why different groups were emerging while condemning the May 9 attacks.

The Dogar-Raas group, which has reportedly gained the strength of some 35 former MPAs and MNAs, including former provincial and federal ministers, is actively holding meeting after meeting to gain maximum strength before deciding to emerge as a separate entity or join the like-minded parties or groups. The Democrats group, though not disclosing its strength, says it doesn’t have any woman members for now.

“One thing is clear that the Democrats will continue acting as an opposition to the ruling Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM),” Mr Raas, a former Punjab education minister who leads the group, told Dawn.

Asked about the number of legislators currently showing interest and becoming part of the group’s meetings, Mr Raas said the group was holding meetings, but it had decided not to disclose the names of those joining the group as all other parties and groups would immediately start approaching them and they might face disturbance and inconvenience.

“We are not forcing anyone. The PTI legislators are coming to us independently,” he added.

“The PML-Q and Jahangir Khan Tareen group leaders are sending messages for meetings and joining, but we are neither responding to them back nor do we want to make any commitment at the moment.”

Mr Raas said the group would be able to come on record after gaining due strength. “The Democrats may come up to explain its strength and plans in a matter of a couple of days,” he added. Rumours are rife that the group had amassed a strength of around 35 former PTI legislators.

In reply to a question, Mr Raas said he and his colleagues did not blame the PTI chairman for the May 9 vandalism and arson attacks on state buildings and army installations, but it remained a fact that the party leaders could not control the mob, whose emotions were heightened after Mr Khan’s arrest in the Al-Qadir Trust case.

“We have parted our ways with the PTI and Imran Khan over the May 9 events that turned out to be a frenzied reaction,” he said.

While senior leaders are joining major parties, PML-Q’s chief organiser complained that former Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) prime minister Tanveer Ilyas had claimed to bring 10 to 15 important members with him, to which party president Chaudhry Shujaat Husain said, “If you had their support, bring them along.”

However, in a matter of a couple of days, Mr Ilyas went to meet Mr Tareen and announced joining his emerging group.

Mr Ilyas had parted ways with the PTI and its chairman after he was disqualified as AJK premier and was removed from the region’s party presidentship after he alleged that party leader Pervez Khattak’s intervention had led to the removal of the PTI government in the AJK.

Mr Ilyas said there was good news for PTI members that he had reached an understanding with Jahangir Tareen and they would move forward together.

Defections

Meanwhile, two more legislators have parted ways with the PTI and resolved they would no longer be part of active politics.

Chaudhry Raza Nasrullah Ghumman, an MPA from Faisalabad, told a presser on Sunday that he condemned the May 9 vandalism and arson attacks.

He said he was taking a break after doing active politics for the past 21 years and would now focus on welfare activity.

MPA Ayesha Iqbal also condemned the May 9 terrible incidents and said she was leaving the PTI and politics for good. Condemning the violence-based politics, Ms Iqbal said she was an ordinary party worker and that the party chairman would not have even any idea who she was.

Meanwhile, several PTI leaders, including former ministers and senators, including Dr Yasmin Rashid, Ijaz Chaudhry and Omer Sarfraz Cheema, were taking a firm stand with the party despite facing terrorism cases, incarceration and court cases.

Former minister Mian Aslam Iqbal, who has been hiding at an undisclosed location amid police raids for his arrest, on Sunday explained his position through a detailed tweet.

Condemning the May 9 arson attacks, Mr Iqbal regretted that scores of police officials had raided his and his relatives’ homes, misbehaved with his mother, wife and daughter, and taken away valuable goods.

He alleged that the police also looted his daughter’s dowry, due to which her wedding scheduled for May 31 had to be cancelled.

Addressing the caretaker chief minister, IG Police and CCPO, the former minister said the police looted the expensive dowry of his daughter and cash worth Rs700,000.

He claimed that he got his bail confirmed from an anti-terrorism court in Lahore on May 7 and then left the city.

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2023

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