Farrukh Habib, formerly a senior leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), on Monday announced he was leaving the party and joining the Istehkam-e-Pakistan Party (IPP) due to the “confrontational” policy of PTI chief Imran Khan.
Addressing a press conference from the IPP’s head office in Lahore, Habib condemned the May 9 riots, describing them as a “dark day.” Maintaining that he had gone into hiding for five months due to the crackdown against the PTI after the events of May 9, he claimed that over the past few weeks, he had gone into seclusion, without any contact with his family.
“Since May 9, we did not face the law and were away from our houses. For the past five months, I was constantly pondering whether I joined politics for this reason?” he said, regretting that the narrative propagated by Khan had brought the country on the verge of disaster. Slamming Khan’s “confrontational” policy, he alleged that it had encouraged conflict with state institutions.
Habib, a vocal supporter of all of Khan’s actions prior to the press conference, also lamented that Khan had refused to accept the reality of his ouster through a “constitutional” vote of no-confidence and had told his supporters it was the result of a foreign conspiracy. Claiming Khan had refused to allow the party to accept the vote of no-confidence, he said the former prime minister had preferred a policy of violence to secure public support.
“Sometimes people become so emotional that they go far away from reality. I wanted to make Pakistan Quaid-e-Azam’s Pakistan, but we kept moving farther away from it,” he said. “I kept asking myself the same question over and over again: what are we resorting to?” he said, regretting that instead of encouraging supporters to wait for elections, Khan had pushed them to “choose the bullet.” He alleged that the PTI chief had used people as “human shields” to avoid arrest on multiple occasions.
On the diplomatic cipher that Khan has alleged “proved” he was ousted through a foreign conspiracy, Habib recalled that the National Security Committee had deliberated on the matter while the PTI was still in power. “The [NSC] statement mentioned that there was no conspiracy, but an intervention,” he said, slamming Khan for using the cable for political purposes while ignoring the national interest.
The former PTI minister claimed Khan had instructed party leaders to defend him in the Toshakhana case regardless of the validity of the allegations. “We were made to defend the indefensible. We did not know that the PTI chairman has also taken watches from Toshakhana,” he claimed, questioning how Khan had claimed the “moral ground” while availing gifts from the Toshakhana himself.
If the PTI chairman were sincere with his supporters, claimed Habib, he should have admitted to buying watched from the Toshakhana the very first the controversy arose.
To a question, the former PTI leader said he was happy to join the IPP, as many of its members were former colleagues who he had a good working relationship with in the PTI.
The IPP, formed on June 8 by estranged PTI leaders Jahangir Tareen and Aleem Khan, is primarily comprised of PTI defectors, particularly from Punjab. While Habib is the first PTI leader to join it in recent week, he is not the first to emerge from an extended “disappearance” and announce a parting of ways with the PTI. Earlier this month, both Usman Dar and Sadaqat Ali Abbasi gave separate interviews to private broadcasters announcing they were exiting the PTI and active politics entirely. Both the interviews attracted controversy, with viewers questioning how they were conducted when even the families of the two had not been able to contact them for several weeks.
Reacting to the interview, without naming Habib, PTI spokesman Shoaib Shaheen alleged state institutions were using taxpayers’ money to crush the party. “The caretaker government has been misleading the masses by saying it is equally dealing with all political parties,” he claimed, while pointing to PMLN leader Nawaz Sharif as trying to return to power despite being “rejected” by the nation.
Maintaining that people were being forced to join the IPP, he warned it could lead to more unrest and worsen political crises and divisions in the country. To a question, he alleged people were “kidnapped” and forced to make statements against the PTI. “These persons can be forced to say they have joined the Bharatiya Janata Party,” he said, referring to India’s ruling party.