Despite earlier promising to address media after a much-anticipated meeting with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Wednesday, party Vice-Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi left the former’s Zaman Park residence in Lahore without offering any confirmation of the contents of their huddle.
On Tuesday, Qureshi was released from prison after earlier being arrested multiple times under the Maintenance of Public Order. Speaking with media upon his release, he had urged PTI supporters not to lose hope, claiming he was carrying the “flag of justice” and would speak further with media after a meeting with Khan. However, the meeting reportedly end on a sour note, with Qureshi rushing out without issuing any statement to the press.
According to local media, Qureshi left for Karachi immediately after his meeting with Khan. Citing sources close to the former foreign minister, they have reported that Qureshi advised Khan to adopt a reconciliatory approach if he wished for his party to survive the current crackdown. He reportedly also urged the PTI chief to consider seeking shelter abroad to allow the situation on the ground to cool down, or alternately adopting silence so as not to perceived as an inciting factor.
This, Qureshi reportedly claimed, could be used as an opportunity for the PTI’s second-tier leadership to “settle matters” with the establishment. Once the situation were resolved, it was reported, Qureshi said Khan could resume leadership of the party and return to active politics. However, per sources, Khan did not appreciate Qureshi’s advice. An apparent confirmation of this came in an address to his supporters via video-link wherein Khan said he would not back down from his movement for “real independence” no matter the consequences.
“They think I will go to them and ask for forgiveness … I want to urge the public to never accept this authority, as the day you bow your heads before them, you will have no future left in Pakistan,” he said.
Earlier, there were rumors that Qureshi could—temporarily—take control of the PTI, as Khan had earlier claimed that he would be the relevant authority if he were to be arrested or disqualified from holding party office. However, it is unclear if this could occur so long as the two PTI leaders remain at odds over how to address the unraveling of their party.