In another significant setback to former prime minister Imran Khan, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Secretary General Asad Umar has announced stepping down from all party positions shortly after he was released from Adiala Jail.
He announced his decision during a press conference at National Press Club in Islamabad on Wednesday.
"Not possible for me to lead party under these circumstances. I am resigning as Secretary General and core committee member of PTI," he said while addressing the press conference.
Responding to a question, Umar clarified that he has not left PTI but only resigned as the secretary general of the party.
Asad Umar said that the most dangerous thing that happened on May 9 was that military installations were attacked. "I think Imran Khan himself has best explained the army’s status in Pakistan. He said that we would have seen similar fate like Syria’s if it was not for a strong army like ours. Khan sb said that my country needs my army more than me."
Also read: In another major blow, Fawad Chaudhry parts ways with PTI
He said that the incidents of May 9 are not only condemnable, but also a point to ponder on where we have come. "I feel like there should be transparent investigation against those involved in these incidents. But thousands of PTI workers and supporters were arrested, a lot of them are innocent... it is also important that they are released as soon as possible," he added.
In response to a question, Umar clarified that he has not abandoned the party entirely but rather resigned from his role as the secretary general and core committee member. He emphasised that his decision was voluntary and not influenced by any ‘external pressure’.
The former finance minister said that the army does not comprise just a few generals whose names are heard on TV, but thousands of soldiers who sacrifice their lives for the safety of the nation.
"My family has been affiliated with the army for the last three generations. From the 1965 war to the war on terror, members of my family have been participating in these wars over the year," he added.
The PTI leader said that an army is only powerful when the nation stands behind it but what was seen on May 9 is concerning.
Also read: PTI's Asad Umar released from Adiala Jail
"It gave a very wrong message… a transparent investigation should take place and those involved should be taken to task. But those who are innocent should be freed."
According to the PTI leader, thousands of party workers were imprisoned, but a significant portion of them were innocent. Nevertheless, he acknowledged the importance of holding accountable those individuals who were involved in acts of vandalism.
During his speech, he addressed the five major stakeholders in the country – Pakistan Army, judiciary, PTI, PDM, and the people of Pakistan.
Umar said that if elections are held today, he believed that in Sindh and Balochistan, PDM will form government as well as a strong opposition at the Centre. However, he added that the politics of the ruling alliance has been badly affected in the past 13 months.
Umar said that Pakistan is currently facing the most dangerous situation since the fall of Bangladesh in 1971. "It is extremely important that we all sit down and find a solution to this crisis," he added.
When asked if he blamed Imran Khan for the events of May 9, he said: “I have told you in detail all that has happened in the past 13 months. Do I think all this destruction has come solely because of one man? No, I don’t think so.”
Earlier this evening, Umar was discreetly released from detention in Adiala Jail after his arrest was nullified by the Islamabad High Court (IHC).
Ordering his immediate release, the high court also barred police from arresting the PTI senior leader, who was detained under the MPO (Maintenance of Public Order) ordinance, for two days.
The court ordered his release after the former minister submitted a sworn statement assuring that he will not partake in any procession of his party that infringes upon section 144. It was emphasised in Asad Umar's sworn statement that contempt of court proceedings would be initiated in case of violation.
Reporters present at Adiala Jail observed that the senior PTI leader was discreetly released from prison. He exited the main gate without making a public appearance and left silently in a private car via Gate One. Journalists and media teams waiting at Gate Five and Three were left in anticipation, they noted.
Unlike previous occasions, Rawalpindi police were also not present outside the jail during Asad Umar's release.
PTI exodus continues
Earlier in the day, Fawad Chaudhry joined a long list of PTI leaders who have announced quitting the party following the May 9 vandalism and violent protests across the country — hours after the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) arrested PTI chief Imran Khan in the Al-Qadir Trust corruption case.
So far Dr Shireen Mazari, Fayyazul Hassan Chohan, Malik Amin Aslam, Mahmood Moulvi, Amir Kayani, Jai Prakash, Aftab Siddiqui and Sanjay Gangwani among many others have left Imran Khan's party.
Shireen, while speaking to the media in Islamabad on Tuesday, announced that she was not only leaving the party but also saying goodbye to active politics, saying that her health and daughter Imaan Mazari suffered significantly during her 12-day incarceration.
“I am leaving politics because of my children, family, and health issues. My family and children are my first priority,” she said. “I have condemned the events that took place on May 9 and 10. I have condemned all forms of disorder.”
Though, PTI Chairman Imran sees this exodus as “forced divorces” at “gunpoint”, political experts suggest that it’s an attempt to factionalise the PTI just like the PML-N was converted into PML-Q overnight at the turn of the last century.
“Without beating around the bush, this is obviously the result of pressure coming from the establishment. The government is simply fanning it,” former PPP senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar said.
Khokhar had himself paid the price of continuously speaking up on human rights violations, especially of the PTI leaders, before being asked to leave the PPP.
He said that the current practice of pressuring politicians to leave politics wasn’t pleasing. The incumbent rulers, he added, shouldn’t take pleasure in opponents’ departure from political arena.
“This doesn’t bode well for politics in general and those who are beaming at it today will surely regret it tomorrow.”
On the whirlwind of arrests and continuous pressure from the powerful quarters, the former senator said that “only time will tell if the PTI survives this”, adding that the political parties had survived in the past.
The unexpected chain of events has unfolded just days after a series of attacks on key civilian and military installations on May 9, following the arrest of the former prime minister in a graft case.
Soon after the arrest, protesters took to the streets, key government and military buildings were attacked, ransacked and torched, several people lost lives and dozens were injured while scores of the PTI supporters were detained, including key party leaders.
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