Home Latest News Exodus from PTI Continues with No End in Sight

Exodus from PTI Continues with No End in Sight

Maleeka Bokhari and Musarrat and Jamshed Cheema latest leaders of party to part ways with Imran Khan after May 9 riots

by Staff Report

From left: Jamshed and Musarrat Cheema, Maleeka Bukhari

The departure of various individuals from the ranks of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) continued on Thursday, as three more senior leaders of the party announced they are parting ways with it amidst an ongoing crackdown triggered by the May 9 riots.

In separate press conferences, Maleeka Bukhari and Jamshed Iqbal Cheema and his wife Musarrat announced they would no longer be affiliated with the PTI and were resigning as office-holders of the party. At the same time, lawmakers and ticket-holders Malik Akram Kanhon, Javed Ansari, Muhammad Afzal, Chaudhry Ehsanul Haq, Chaudhry Jehanzeb Rasheed, and Saeed Akbar Niwani also announced they would no longer be affiliated with the PTI. The ongoing exits from the party has raised questions over the pressure people are under to distance themselves from party chief Imran Khan, but all defectors have maintained they are under no pressure during press conferences.

In a press conference from the National Press Club in Islamabad, Bukhari said she was exiting the PTI following the riots of May 9, which she described as the party crossing a “red line.” Condemning the riots, she demanded action against all those responsible for the attacks on military installations and monuments, adding she regretted the events of the day.

Claiming she was under no pressure, she joked that it was difficult to spend time in crowded cells during the heat of May and she wished to spend time with her family, including her 13-year-old son. Bukhari was previously released from jail earlier this week but was immediately re-arrested. Upon her release on Thursday, she addressed the press conference announcing her exit from the PTI. During her media interaction, she called for peace and stability in Pakistan to achieve economic growth, adding that people needed to reconsider their priorities in the national interest.

In a subsequent joint press conference, Jamshed and Musarrat Cheema also announced they were parting ways with the PTI, adding they were also quitting mainstream politics. Describing the events of May 9 and its aftermath as a time of “great hardship,” Musarrat stressed she had entered politics to serve the public but the present situation did not permit this. “If it were possible, I would turn back the clock,” she said, adding that if an opportunity presented itself to serve the public in non-political ways, she would consider it.

“My son is 11 years old and a cancer survivor and has health issues,” she said, explaining her decision to quit the PTI as well as step down from her role as spokesperson. “He has never lived alone so I quit the PTI and will continue to serve the country in some other sector,” she said. “To me, my husband and my family are important. We have never talked against the Army and want a prosperous Pakistan,” she claimed. To a question on conversations between her and Imran Khan on May 9, she said the PTI chief had called her from a landline and they had talked 11 times. “We both knew that every word was being recorded. Imran Khan was worried about his family and I was giving assurance that we are doing efforts to produce him in court [after his arrest],” she said.

Both Jamshed and Musarrat Cheema also condemned the May 9 riots, adding that they were ready to face the consequences as they were equally responsible as leaders of the party who should have worked to prevent the attacks on military installations and buildings.

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