Lahore: Scores of disgruntled leaders who quit Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan’s party have joined hands and are set to launch a new military-backed party to fight the general elections likely to be held in October.
Sugar baron and Khan’s old friend Jahangir Khan Tareen (JKT) is leading the group of leaders who left Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party in the wake of attacks on military installations last month.
More than 100 PTI stalwarts and legislators Wednesday joined their new boss Tareen who is likely to launch the ‘Istehkaam-i-Pakistan Party (IPP) comprising over 120 former leaders and lawmakers of the PTI.
This new party is being tagged as the ‘king’s party’ by Khan and political pundits for having the full backing of the military establishment. In the next elections, it is said the king’s party will emerge strong and have a share of power.
“It is not out of place to say that the IPP (king’s party) will be the ‘new PTI minus Imran Khan’ in the next general elections likely to be held in October 2023,” former PTI leader Firdous Ashiq Awan told the Press Trust of India Thursday.
She said Khan is responsible for what he and his party are facing today.
“His anti-military narrative caused May 9 incidents. Instead of targeting his political rivals he aimed at the establishment and now he is paying the price,” she said. Most of the main leaders and former lawmakers of PTI have joined the JKT group and no one will stay with Khan, she said.
“We under the new platform will do politics against mainstream parties – PMLN and PPP – as PTI has now become a thing of the past,” Awan said.
More than 130 leaders and former lawmakers have quit PTI for what Khan said “under military pressure” to keep him out of politics.
Interestingly, some of them had announced a ‘temporary break’ from politics while quitting the PTI in the wake of the May 9 unrest. However, their break lasted only a couple of weeks before they formally entered the new political camp.
Every day since the attacks on over 20 military installations and state buildings including the army headquarters in Rawalpindi, the PTI leaders have been leaving Khan.
It is believed that only a handful of PTI leaders may be left supporting Khan in the ongoing efforts to fracture the PTI.
“Almost all PTI deserters have converged on one platform – JKT group. Now this group is launching a new party – ‘Istehkaam-i-Pakistan Party (IPP) – and all those leaving Mr Khan will be part of this party,” said PM’s special assistant Awn Chaudhry, who is a main leader of the JKT group.
He said Tareen will soon make a formal announcement of the party.
He said the Democrats group, comprising some 35 former lawmakers of PTI, has also joined the JKT group. “Now we will do politics on the new platform,” Chaudhry said.
Prominent among those who joined the JKT are PTI’s former senior vice president Fawad Chaudhry, its founding member Amir Kiyani, former Sindh governor Imran Ismael, former federal ministers Ali Zaidi and Firdous Ashiq Awan and outspoken Fayyazul Hasan Chohan.
Property and media tycoon Aleem Khan is lobbying for the president’s slot in the IPP while Tareen himself may be called ‘chief’ of the new party till he gets relief from the court regarding his lifetime disqualification from holding a public office.
The arrest of Khan by paramilitary personnel from the Islamabad High Court premises May 9 triggered unrest in Pakistan, leading to several deaths and dozens of military and state installations being destroyed by the angry PTI protesters.
The ousted premier is under pressure to keep his party intact as dozens of top leaders have abandoned it after the crackdown launched to arrest those involved in attacks on military installations May 9.
Khan, a cricketer-turned-politician, was ousted from power in April last year after losing a no-confidence vote in his leadership, which he alleged was part of a US-led conspiracy targeting him because of his independent foreign policy decisions on Russia, China and Afghanistan.