Usman Dar, a senior leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), on Wednesday announced he is leaving the party, claiming he had spent the months since the May 9 riots gauging ground realities before arriving on his decision.
Last month, the PTI alleged that “unknown persons” had abducted Dar from Karachi, with police denying they had custody of him. His mother subsequently issued a video message claiming her son had been “abducted” and demanded he be produced in court to defend any allegations against him. His brother-in-law-, through his lawyer, then filed a petition before the Sindh High Court (SHC) seeking Dar’s recovery. On Tuesday, the SHC directed police to register a case of his disappearance.
However, Dar returned just as mysteriously as he had disappeared, telling Dunya News anchor Kamran Shahid he had gone into hiding of his own accord. Questioned on the “masterminds” of the May 9 riots—which saw PTI supporters ransacking civil and military assets nationwide over Imran Khan’s arrest in the Toshakhana case—he said he did not believe it had been the result of the events of a single day.
Claiming that the PTI had been divided between two camps after the vote of no-confidence that led to Khan’s ouster as prime minister, he said one—including Azam Swati, Hammad Azhar, Murad Saeed, Farrukh Habib—had backed confrontation with the armed forces. “Then there was a mindset which had people like Asad Umar, Omar Ayub, Ali Muhammad Khan, Shafqat Mehmood and I, who were talking about reconciliation with the Army,” he continued.
Claiming that the PTI chief had backed the anti-Army stance during party meetings, he alleged that the leadership had discussed possibly attacking state institutions if Khan were arrested, noting a narrative had been built that Khan’s arrest would not be tolerated under any circumstances. “Of course, the [May 9] incident was orchestrated to thwart the appointment [of Army chief],” he alleged. “I believe that Imran Khan also had information from within the institution suggesting that the long march could potentially influence either the appointment or the removal of Gen. Asim Munir,” he added, referring to the PTI’s long march last year.
Khan, he continued, had “brainwashed” party workers to prevent his arrest, adding the workers were used as a “human shield.” Explaining that he could never think of attacking the Army, he said, he had left to visit his family on May 6 and had not been involved in the May 9 riots. To a question, he said he was willing to appear in court and testify against Khan in court.
To another question, Dar said the lives of PTI workers had significantly changed after May 9. Regretting that the party’s current state of affairs was a result of Khan’s decisions, he said the next general elections would determine its future. He further said if the PTI had not decided to dissolve the governments of Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the events of May 9 might not have happened.
“The entire party structure has been dismantled. You may have supporters, but the absence of effective leadership is glaring,” he said, noting that when the PPP and PMLN had faced similar crackdowns, the impact had primarily been on the second-tier leadership. In the PTI’s case, he noted, it was the grassroots workers facing the brunt of the backlash.
“I had an offer and an opportunity from the beginning to hold a press conference and leave PTI, but I took five months to evaluate the situation,” he said of his delayed announcement to exit the party. “I was torn between decisions, but I ultimately realized that the necessary environment for change was not emerging and the space was not being created,” he added.
Noting that such crackdowns could not remove public support, he recalled that both the PPP and PMLN still retained a voter base despite state actions against them. He hoped all three major parties would come together and work for the public interest.
Dar is the latest PTI leader to jump ship, following people such as Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, Shireen Mazari, and Pervez Khattak. Observers note that while the party retains popular support, it now has a major leadership deficit, which would make it difficult to contest elections.
In a statement posted on X, formerly Twitter, after the interview’s broadcast, the PTI said Dar’s allegations had no legal standing and would not sway public opinion. Noting similar “staged” interviews could emerge from other “missing” party leaders, it added: “It is possible that Sadaqat Abbasi, Farrukh Habib, and Sheikh Rashid may also experience similar situations, and we may witness similar dramas being aired in the future.”
The party also called for a judicial commission to investigate the events of May 9.
Separately, appearing on Geo News, PTI spokesperson Shoaib Shaheen questioned why Dar had not commented on the May 9 riots before this interview. “Usman Dar endured a lot of things but there is a limit of tolerance,” he said, claiming the former party leader had succumbed to state pressure.