Imran Khan says party leaders are being forced to quit amid standoff with army

The standoff between Imran Khan’s party and the Pakistan Army intensified following the May 9 violence in the country.


Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan on Wednesday said senior leaders were being pressurized to resign from his party amid crackdown, as a former cabinet minister resigned.

Rights monitors said authorities have detained thousands of supporters of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party since street violence broke out over his brief arrest earlier this month.

Party spokesman Fawad Chaudhry, who served as information minister in Khan’s government, quit the party, while former finance minister, general secretary Asad Umar, said he would step down from his post but would remain with the PTI.

This comes after senior vice president Shireen Mazari parted ways with Khan on Tuesday.

The trio made their announcements after Khan was released from custody for inciting street violence following his arrest.

“This is an action that I have never seen before in the history of Pakistan,” Khan said in a video address on Wednesday night.

If you say you are part of PTI, you will face harassment and violence, you will be locked up.

“If you say the magic words, ‘we are no longer in PTI’, you will be released.”

Khan claimed that Daman was being targeted by grassroots supporters and officials.

“They have put everyone in jail, I don’t even know who to contact now,” he said from his home in the eastern city of Lahore.

Chowdhury announced his resignation on Twitter, condemning the civil unrest and saying he would be “taking a break from politics”.

Omar meanwhile held a press conference, stating that he was not pressured into his decision to step down as Secretary-General.

“There is a climate of fear among Khan’s supporters following the arbitrary arrests of several opposition leaders,” Amnesty International said on Tuesday.

“The authorities must stop cracking down on political opposition,” he said in a joint statement with other organizations, accusing the government of using “vague anti-terror laws” to justify the detentions.

Since he was removed from office, Khan, 70, has waged an unprecedented campaign of defiance against the powerful military establishment, long regarded as Pakistan’s powerbroker.

He accused top officers of orchestrating his downfall and even of plotting an assassination attempt in November in which he was shot in the leg, allegations the military denies.

His arrest on corruption charges at the Islamabad High Court came just hours after he reiterated the claim and was seen as an attempt by his party to erode support ahead of elections due after October.

People ransacked cities, set buildings on fire, blocked roads and clashed with police outside military installations during the unrest, which left nine people dead.

Khan was freed from three days’ custody after the Supreme Court declared the arrest illegal.

The army has denied Khan’s claims that “agencies” planned the violence to discredit his party.

Meanwhile, Islamabad has promised to prosecute those accused of violence against military installations in military courts.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)