Imran Khan’s party suffers massive resignations but is this an existential threat?
Pakistan’s main opposition party, led by former Prime Minister Imran Khan, is in shock after a string of resignations.
At least 20 senior Pakistani Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leaders have resigned after expressing their dissatisfaction with a perceived lack of discipline within the party’s ranks following Mr Khan’s arrest.
Demonstrations erupted after the arrest of the former prime minister. Despite his release days later, other party members continue to be detained weeks later after thousands took to the streets and damaged government property.
Protesters caused $22.3 million in damage to private and public property, $870,000 in Islamabad, $504,216 in Rawalpindi and $20.8 million in Punjab province, while more than 70 public sites and were damaged in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
The violence left at least 10 people dead and hundreds injured.
Police arrested thousands, with the Lahore branch urging the Federal Investigation Agency to impose travel restrictions on 746 PTI leaders and activists.
Mr Khan said he expected to be arrested again any day after several members of the PTI office, including former finance and planning minister Asad Umar, the former Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari and former Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, were detained under a colonial-era law.
The Maintenance of Public Order Act allows the government to detain anyone for at least 30 days.
But almost as quickly as the police can make arrests, the judiciary has issued orders for the release of PTI supporters.
This did not stop some PTI members from resigning after criticizing their own members and supporters for being responsible for the violence in the streets.
Former information minister and PTI vice-president Fawad Chaudry resigned last week.
Mr Chaudry, who condemned the violence that erupted during the May 9 protests, said in a tweet that he was taking a political break and parting ways with Imran Khan.
Ref. My previous statement where I unequivocally condemned the incidents of May 9, I have decided to take a break from politics, therefore, I have resigned from the party position and part ways with Imran Khan
— Ch Fawad Hussain (@fawadchaudhry) May 24, 2023
However, former finance minister KP Jaghra told The National that the country’s constitution and laws have been flouted, leaving us with one of the harshest campaigns of political repression in history.
It could even surpass any previous autocratic rule, he said.
Mr Jaghra said PTI leaders were resigning because they had a choice to stay with the party and face imprisonment and bogus charges or leave.
People can choose to embrace or reject that idea, and no number of resignations can change that, he said.
Samar Bilour, a former minister and spokesperson for the Awami National Party, which is part of a 13-party alliance called the Pakistan Democratic Movement which is a political rival of the PTI, told The National that now Mr Khan’s party was out of power, he was seeking to blame the establishment for his ills.
Riots cannot be swept under the rug and those who have committed criminal acts must be punished, she said.
She encouraged PTI leaders to reflect on the protests and rectify their mistakes.
Despite numerous fights, arrest warrants and attempts to accuse Mr Khan of corruption, resignations have yet to reach the levels seen in 2017 and 2018, when several lawmakers defected to rival PML-N’s PTI.
The defectors joined the PTI, marking a major turning point for Mr Khan’s party.
Just as he was brought to power, the same is happening now with Imran Khan, said Lehaz Ali, a Pakistani political journalist.
The way the PTI was formed is now falling apart as his party’s supporters and leaders are being swept away and different cases are being brought against him.
However, Mr Ali said that whatever position Imran Khan takes, the people will support him and the votes will be with him in the future.
Updated: May 26, 2023, 5:50 a.m.
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