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Imran Khan's PTI Hit by Wave of Desertions as Close Aid Abandons Ex-PM

© AP Photo / K.M. ChaudaryPakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during a news conference at his home, in Lahore, Pakistan, Thursday, May 18, 2023.
Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during a news conference at his home, in Lahore, Pakistan, Thursday, May 18, 2023. - Sputnik India, 1920, 25.05.2023
Thousands of party workers from Imran Khan's political outfit have been arrested over involvement in the recent violent riots in Pakistan.
With the Sharif government intensifying its crackdown on Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), many senior politicians of his party have deserted the former Pakistan Prime Minister.
Ex-federal information minister Fawad Chaudhry has become the latest to join the bandwagon, local media reported on Thursday.

Hard Times For PTI

The development is viewed as a major blow to Khan, considering Chaudhry was one of his closest aides and served as the party's chief spokesperson and Senior Vice-President.
Besides, Chaudhry was one of the most vocal critics of the current government comprising the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), and other smaller parties.
"Ref. my earlier statement where I unequivocally condemned 9th May incidents, I have decided to take a break from politics, therefore, I have resigned from party position and parting ways from Imran Khan," he wrote on Twitter.
Activists of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party of former Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan, gather in support of country's judicial system at Zaman Park in Lahore on May 14, 2023. - Sputnik India, 1920, 24.05.2023
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In another setback to the cricketer-turned-politician, party general secretary Asad Umar who was the finance minister in his government from 2018 to 2022, stated that he was stepping down from his post, though he fell short of quitting PTI.
Umar, who spent 15 days in prison before being released on court orders, condemned the riots that engulfed Pakistan for four consecutive days following Khan's arrest on May 9.
"I would say a transparent inquiry should be held as thousands of persons are under arrest [for alleged role in violence]. Those who were involved should be punished," he told reporters while addressing the media at the National Press Club in Islamabad.
Khan's PTI has faced a barrage of desertions in recent days with politicians like Shireen Mazari, Fayyazul Hassan Chohan, Nadia Sher, and Qasim Suri bidding adieu to the party previously.

Exit Without 'Pressure'

What's more ironic for Khan is that none of them cited "pressure" from the authorities as the reason behind their exit from PTI.
Instead, some of them even mentioned that they were not leaving PTI due to any kind of pressure. But it looks like it's Imran Khan's campaign against the Pakistan military that appeared to be the likely reason behind these abandonments.
Nadia Sher, a former member of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's provincial assembly, underlined that she did not want to be associated with an institution that ransacked and torched military installations.
"I am resigning from PTI membership without any pressure or temptation. I have nothing to do with this party anymore," she said.

Khan Alleges Coercion Behind Desertions

Khan, meanwhile, claimed that his party politicians were coerced to quit amid a large-scale crackdown on PTI supporters and workers.

"This is a crackdown that I have never seen in the history of Pakistan before. If you say that you are part of PTI, you will face oppression and violence, you will be locked up," Khan said in a public address from his Zaman Park residence in Lahore. "If you say the magic words, 'We are no longer in PTI', you will be released."

Notably, Chaudhry, Umar, and Mazari made their respective announcements as they were released by the police after spending days in jail on charges of instigating violent protests following Khan's arrest.