LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: A day after his month-long prison stint ended, PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi called on party chairman Imran Khan for a highly anticipated meeting at the latter’s Zaman Park residence, on Wednesday.

The meeting, which lasted about an hour, ended without an official statement being issued. Mr Qureshi, who had promised a press conference after the meeting, also left the venue without talking to reporters who had gathered outside the residence eagerly awaiting the details.

Social media accounts of the otherwise digital-savvy PTI and its chairman also kept mum as only a picture of the meeting was uploaded.

The meeting took place amid rumours that Mr Qureshi was likely to take over the party in case of Imran Khan’s disqualification and might negotiate the survival of the embattled party with the government and powerful quarters.

No official word on what was discussed; party insiders say situation still fluid

He went to Zaman Park to apprise the PTI chairman about the course that the party could take to avoid implosion.

According to one PTI leader, who spoke to Dawn on condition of anonymity, the former prime minister faces a stark choice — either “accept the political realities or become the fall guy”.

“These are the reflections that dawned on Mr Qureshi during his incarceration and that is precisely what he has conveyed to (Imran) Khan. The party faces further disintegration if Imran Khan persists with his confrontational politics … [PTI] needs some breathing space, which can only be available if Imran Khan is separated from the party and politics,” the insider told Dawn.

“Only then could the damage already done to the party be assessed and ways found to negotiate new terms,” he said.

“The possibilities of the PTI’s survival, albeit it is on the fringes of national politics for the time being, include Imran Khan abdicating to Shah Mehmood Qureshi,” another party leader said.

He added that this move would allow Mr Qureshi to negotiate the date of the election (probably in October or November), and open a channel of cooperation with the PDM on economic issues as well on caretaker set-ups ahead of elections. “But, all of these steps have a prerequisite i.e. exit of Imran Khan from politics and legal consequences of the May 9 violence.”

This was the reason Mr Qureshi did not talk to the media after the media nor did the party’s social media accounts divulge any details, the PTI leader said, adding that the situation was still “fluid”.

“The meeting did take place and choices [available to Imran Khan] were put on the table so he could weigh his options, especially after the stern warning from the army’s formation commanders meeting. The rest of the details might reveal themselves in the next few days,” the party leader added.

‘Remove NAB chief’

Separately, the PTI chief approached the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) against National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chief retired Lt Gen Nazir Ahmed, asking the forum to declare the NAB chief ineligible for violating the code of conduct in light of his arrest on May 9.

The application has been filed under Article 209 of the Constitution and Section 6 of the NAB Ordinance. The PTI chairman pleaded that the NAB chief issued warrants for his arrest on May 1, on a holiday, in violation of Section 24 of the NAB law. “The arrest of the complainant was executed in a manner which is violative of his fundamental rights… [and gave] the impression…that the complainant is a hardcore terrorist or mercenary or enemy of the state or habitual criminal or a wanted fugitive,” it stated.

The petition reads: “During [the] execution of the arrest warrant dated May 1, 2023, the complainant, without any reason and justification, was dragged, manhandled, beaten and injured by Pakistan Rangers which were working in coordination with NAB.”

He demanded the removal of the NAB chairman and pleaded that the SJC had “ample jurisdiction” to proceed against him on the same grounds which were required for proceeding against the judges of superior courts.

Ikram Junaidi in Islamabad also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, June 8th, 2023

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