ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Imran Khan said on Tuesday top Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leaders were facing intense pressure to quit his political faction after his close aide and party vice chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi was rearrested after he got bail and gave brief public appearance.
The PTI has been facing a crackdown after violent protests broke out earlier this month following Khan’s arrest from the Islamabad High Court by paramilitary Rangers on May 9. Thousands of his party workers and supporters stormed government buildings, including the official residence of a top army general, and set them on fire.
The government and Pakistan’s powerful army maintained the protests were planned and organized, leading to the arrests of top PTI leaders, including Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who briefly stepped out of a prison in Rawalpindi before he was detained by the police once again.
Asked by the media if he was under pressure to leave PTI, he briefly responded: “I was, am and will remain part of the party.”
Reacting to the development, Khan said Qureshi was rearrested like several other party workers and supporters.
“We are now being governed by law of the jungle, might is right and the only thing standing in its way is our judiciary,” he said in a Twitter post. “The constitution is being brazenly violated along with [Supreme Court] rulings. Police [is] being used to crush PTI, [and] our leaders [are] forced to quit the party.”
The ex-premier maintained the fundamental rights of PTI leaders and supporters had been “trampled” while the media community was “muzzled” and social media activists felt “threatened.”
He said a pro-PTI journalist, Imran Riaz, had not been produced in any court despite judicial orders after his arrest, adding his other party workers were languishing in small cells in “blistering heat” and many of them were facing “custodial torture.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Khan suffered a major blow when one of his most senior party members, Shireen Mazari, announced she was quitting the PTI and “active politics,” making her the most-high profile individual in a long line of aides to abandon Khan in the last two weeks.
Mazari made the announcement after being arrested four times in the last couple of days. She said she had taken the decision due to her health and recent hardships faced by her family.
“I have decided that I am quitting active politics and I also want to say this from today onwards, I will not be a part of the PTI or any political party,” she continued.
Meanwhile, two prominent PTI leaders, Hammad Azhar and Omar Ayub Khan, complained of police raids on their homes on Twitter.
Azhar said his 82-year-old father, Mian Muhammad Azhar, who served as Punjab governor in the past, was threatened by the authorities.
Khan, on the other hand, informed the police raided his house without warrants and “abducted” his staff while warning to arrest his 16-year-old son.
The PTI has already urged rights groups to raise their voice against the ongoing crackdown against the party.