Former Punjab chief minister Usman Buzdar on Friday announced he is quitting politics, as the number of politicians distancing themselves from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) after the May 9 riots continues with no end in sight.
Addressing a press conference in Quetta, Buzdar condemned the riots triggered by the arrest of PTI chief Imran Khan in a corruption case and said he had always stood by the Army and would continue to do so. However, he said, amidst the current political acrimony, he had decided to step away from politics. “I have always given priority to politics of decency and amidst the current political situation—which you are aware of—I am stepping away from politics,” he said, while urging all stakeholders to work for the betterment of Pakistan.
To a question, Buzdar urged authorities to release all innocent people arrested in the crackdown against the PTI after the May 9 riots.
A day earlier, PTI stalwart Pervez Khattak similarly announced he was stepping down as the president of the party’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa chapter. Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, he said it was difficult for him to continue serving in the role amidst the prevailing political crisis. Stressing he had already condemned the May 9 riots, he hoped Pakistan would never see a repeat of the events of that day.
The former chief minister of Khyber-Pakhuntkhwa also sought to rubbish commentary about him being “pressured” to leave the PTI, saying he was not acting under any pressure and had taken this decision after careful consideration. He said he would announce a future course of action after consulting his friends and party colleagues. Last week, the PTI’s Asad Umar had made a similar announcement, saying he would remain in the party but would not serve on any office.
Khattak was accompanied by former National Assembly speaker Asad Qaiser during his press talk, but it is unclear if he, too, has decided to distance from the PTI, as he did not say anything and swiftly departed as soon as Khattak had completed his statement. Earlier, PTI chief Khan had alleged Khattak and Qaiser were both “detained” by intelligence agencies, who they had gone to meet as members of a negotiating committee formed by the former prime minister.
Thousands of PTI supporters, workers and leaders were arrested in the immediate aftermath of the May 9 riots, which the Army has described as a “black day” in Pakistan’s history. The government maintains that all innocent bystanders have either been released already or will be released upon completion of inquiries, while adding that the culprits would be prosecuted under all relevant laws, including through controversial military courts that rights bodies have slammed as being in violation of due process.
Since the crackdown, more than a hundred PTI leaders across Pakistan have announced they are quitting the party.