ISLAMABAD: Pervez Khattak, a senior member of ex-premier Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, known for his role as a key interlocutor between Khan and his foes in times of crisis, announced parting ways with the party on Thursday evening while Usman Buzdar, a former chief minister of Punjab, announced he was quitting politics on Friday.
The exit of Khattak and Buzdar are the latest and most high profile in a string of departures from Khan’s PTI party, which the civilian government of PM Shehbaz Sharif has threatened to ban. It will also deal a further blow to the embattled ex-premier’s party as its standoff with the military intensifies.
“I have thought a lot and decided that the political environment in Pakistan is really bad and, in this environment, it is not possible for me to go on,” Khattak told reports. “So, I have decided that I will leave my party position.”
The former defense minister has been in detention since violent protests swept the country last month after the arrest of Khan on corruption charges on May 9.
In his brief press conference on Friday, Khattak also condemned the protests by Khan’s supporters, who attacked military installations, including army headquarters, and government buildings.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Buzdar too “condemned” the violent protests following Khan’s arrest.
“I was always committed to politics of nobility [...] but due to the current circumstances, I have decided to quit politics,” the former chief minister said.
Khan says the corruption case against him, like dozens of others, is fabricated and his associates are being forced out of his party under duress from the government and the military in a maneuver to dismantle the PTI before elections scheduled later this year. Both deny this.
Khan has been embroiled in a tussle with the military since he was removed from power last year in a parliamentary vote which he says was orchestrated by the country’s top generals. The military denies this.
Khan is Pakistan’s most popular leader, according to most local polls, while the military is its most powerful institution, having ruled directly or overseen governments throughout Pakistan’s 75-year history.
The face-off has raised new fears about the stability of the nuclear-armed South Asian country of 220 million people as it struggles with its worst economic crisis in decades.