Pakistan: As crackdown intensifies, will Imran Khan be the last man standing in PTI?

Top brass of PTI has resigned from the party

Imran khan arrested Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan leaves after appearing in a court in Lahore, Pakistan | AP

Imran Khan is batting for his political career. As the crackdown on Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf intensifies, Khan’s team is getting bowled out of the party. The latest on Wednesday was Fawad Chaudhary, who quit “to take a break from politics.’’ The question remains whether Khan will be the last man standing.

 Defence Minister Khawaja Asif has said that banning the party was under “consideration.” 

“Vice Chairman (of) PTI Shah Mehmood Qureshi rearrested after getting bail just like PTI workers and supporters. We are now being governed by law of the jungle, might is right and the only thing standing in its way is our judiciary. The constitution is being brazenly violated along with SC rulings. Police being used to crush PTI, our leaders forced to quit the party. Fundamental rights openly trampled upon, media totally muzzled, SM activists threatened. Imran Riaz is not being produced in court despite court orders. Also, our workers are cramped into small cells in this blistering heat while others have faced custodial torture. Giving in to this Yazeediat means the death of our nation and hence will resist till my last breath,’’ tweeted Khan.

The strategy adopted by the established—with the governments, to reign in Khan, seems to have desired results. The violence of May 9, largely carried out by PTI supporters, showed that Khan commanded the street. A large number of PTI workers stormed into the Corps Commander's Lahore residence. Emergency was imposed in Punjab province and cell phone services were affected. With harsh punishment for those involved in the violence, it is clear that the bogey of the fauj may have been smashed but the army is determined to win. With the threat of jail term hanging above their head—and rearrests—the top brass of the party are caving in. This is not the first time that such strong-armed tactics have been employed. 

Chaudhary was arrested—in a dramatic fashion—in connection with the May 9 violence. This resignation came on the heels of Shireen Mazari quitting from the party. Mazari, who was a close aide of Khan was released for the fourth time after May 11. In a statement, she said: “Not only the May 9 and 10 violence, but I’ve always condemned every kind of violence especially against state institutions and symbols like the General Headquarters, Supreme Court and Parliament.” Mazari too has chosen to quit active politics. She is 72. “From today, I’m not part of PTI or any active party because first [for me are] my family, my mother and kids,” she said.

Khan is in the corner—and all he has left, as one commentator said, was his bat—but he is still determined not to be out. And nor is he losing the popular support he has. “Yes, Pakistani political parties have been dismantled before, but PTI is no MQM. It has national reach and mass appeal. Those are facts that can’t be denied or shrugged off as inconsequential,’’ said Micheal Kugelman, South Asia Institute Director at The Wilson Center. 


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