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Operation to dismantle Imran Khan’s network in Pakistan steams into Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Ex-Pakistan PM Imran Khan may have to walk alone following mass desertions from his party

The operation to dismantle the eco-system marshalled by Pakistan’s ex-Prime Minister Imran Khan has continued its steady advance, but some key roadblocks need to be cleared before a new military-backed dispensation can assume power in Islamabad.

In the last 24 hours, fresh steps have been taken to break-up the Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, following key arrests.

These include detention of former Punjab Chief Minister Parvez Elahi, a top ally of Khan who was produced in court on Friday.

Elahi was rearrested in another corruption case shortly after being released on the orders of an anti-corruption court in Lahore.

As the establishment focused on the power hub of Punjab, another former Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar of the PTI also parted company with the ex-PM.

Addressing a press conference, Buzdar said: “First of all, I condemn the May 9 incidents. The military installations which were targeted were properties of the state of Pakistan and I believe we should avoid such incidents.”

Buzdar was referring to the shocking May 9 attacks on key military icons including the General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi, the residence of the Lahore corps commander as well as the martyrs’ memorial.

There were desertions as well from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the ex-PM’s base. Former chief minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Pervez Khattak on Thursday surrendered the party’s provisional presidential position.

Over 80 PTI members have already deserted Khan’s sinking ship. These include former Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari, ex-information minister Fawad Chaudhry among a large number of lesser luminaries. On Friday, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif claimed that PTI Vice-Chairman and former foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who is now jailed following the May 9 attacks, will part company with Imran Khan as soon as he finds an alternative.

“Shah Mahmood had told me he wanted to join the PML-N [Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz] when he left the PPP [Pakistan People’s Party],” the defence minister was quoted as saying.

He also claimed that Qureshi had met PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif in this regard.

As nodes of Khan’s influence are rooted out step-by-step, three problems remain. These include tackling the judiciary, especially Supreme Court Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, who has backed the ex-PM so far. Second, Khan’s support base in the diaspora has also to be weakened. Finally, decks have to cleared for the return from London of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who has been convicted for corruption following the Panama Papers leak, before general elections can be staged in October.

As reported by India Narrative earlier, considerable thought is being given to designating the PTI as a terror outfit, following the May 9 attacks.

The terror designation of PTI will have three key implications. First, it will eliminate intervention by the courts to save Khan from the wrath of the establishment. Pakistani analysts are of the view that once the party is designated as terrorist, any related development will be out of the courts’ jurisdiction. In that eventuality, the decks will be cleared to try Khan in military courts, over which the civilian courts would be unable to exercise any jurisdiction.

Second, declaration of the PTI as terror organisation can also weaken Khan’s supporters abroad. Once the party is declared terrorist, the Pakistani establishment has the right to seek extradition of the party kingpins abroad, provided there is an extradition treaty with the host country.

Third, some Pakistani commentators say that the fear of PTI being branded as a terrorist organisation is adding urgency to the desertions from the Party.

Regarding Nawaz Sharif’s return from exile in London, the PML (N) will file a review plea in the Supreme Court to revisit the decision of disqualifying the former PM of holding public office and post of party president, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah told Geo News.
Pakistan Supreme Court had imposed the ban for hiding unpaid salary from his son in the Panama case.

Sharif has demanded resignation of the Bandial, who has been accused of favouring Khan.

It has been reported the CJP Bandial’s cousin, a supporter of PTI is the wife of former Lahore Corps Commandeer Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Salman Fayyaz Ghani. Ghani is facing court martial for his alleged role in allowing May 9 rioters to enter the Corps Commander’s residence in Lahore.

Also Read: Pak establishment could declare Imran Khan’s PTI a terror outfit as endgame begins