The PTI has received another shot in the arm – though for the PPP, it might be seen as another sign of aggression.
A veteran politician, thought to be one of the main actors behind the mass movement which culminated in the hanging of Pakistan Peoples Party founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, has announced he will join Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.
Air Marshal (Retd) Asghar Khan joined the PTI on Monday, though his high-profile move has already supplied ammunition to skeptics of Imran’s steep rise in the country’s political horizon. The ‘genuineness’ of the personnel in the party has again been challenged.
Newcomer wants petition heard
Asghar, who was heading the little-known Pakistan Tehrik-e-Istaqlal, joined the more prominent PTI at a joint news conference with Imran. Both Khans called upon the Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry to immediately take up a decade-old petition filed by Asghar to punish those politicians and political groups who have been receiving funds from the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).
Figures from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz are among those groups who have allegedly received money from the ISI in the past to run their election campaigns. Nawaz Sharif’s party is one of Imran’s major rivals, and both parties have publicly critised each other of late.
“I urge the Chief Justice of Pakistan that the Asghar Khan petition is immediately reopened,” Imran said. “Those political parties who have been getting money from the agencies don’t have any right to rule the country. Neither can they protect the public interest.”
Asghar said that his and Imran’s parties had the same mission of “routing out the rulers who had endangered the sovereignty and integrity of the country.”
“There is panic all around the country. The price hike is touching the skies. The country’s economy is on the verge of collapse. People want change and the PTI is the only party that can provide that,” said Asghar.
Asghar was one of the top leaders at the centre of a mass movement that culminated in what the PPP terms the judicial murder of its first leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1979.
He called for hanging Bhutto publicly and allegedly wrote a letter to the country’s powerful military to further this case. The retired air force officer has not held a significant position in politics since then.
Imran’s advance met a roadblock on Monday when supporters and opponents of a Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa provincial minister who was also about to join the PTI clashed at the party’s headquarters.
Clash between PTI old and new
Separately, at another news conference Imran Khan was planning to welcome Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa Irrigation Minister Pervez Khattak to the party. This ended abruptly when two rival groups from Nowshera district clashed with stones and sticks, leaving many injured.
PTI’s old workers from Nowshera, led by Sajid Ghumriani, opposed the decision by Imran to accept Khattak in the party’s fold, blaming him for corruption.
The fight went on for almost an hour, forcing Imran to cancel the event and delay the joining of Khattak. PTI’s spokesperson Zahid Kazmi later told media that a committee had been set up to identify those who created the scene. He said that Khattak’s affiliation with the party would be decided once the committee came up with its report within two days.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 13th, 2011.