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Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf refuses to settle for anyone but Imran

• Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) vice chairman says decisions to be taken through ‘collective wisdom’
• Supporters believe Qureshi is ‘stopgap measure’ as Imran will be free soon

LAHORE: One day on, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leadership and supporters are still in disbelief about the arrest of party chief imran khan who was whisked away from his residence in Lahore by a police contingent following his conviction in a corruption case. For many, Imran is not replaceable.

PTI stalwart Shah Mehmood Qureshi is facing an uphill task to commander the former ruling party, especially when many within the party are not ready to trust him over his supposed ‘compromises’ with the powers that be.

Many believe Mr Qureshi is a ‘stopgap measure’ as Imran Khan will be free soon since the verdict “has several loopholes”. In any case, the party is not going to be run on the ‘whims’ of Mr Qureshi. Party insiders said the party vice chief has been “instructed in detail about every affair of the party…[including]distribution of party tickets and general elections”.

In a candid talk with Dawn on Sunday, the PTI vice chairman acknowledged the challenges the arrest of Mr Khan poses to him. In a bid to assure party supporters, he said the decisions would be taken through ‘collective wisdom’ with the help of a core committee recently formed by Imran Khan.

“There is no doubt that no one in the party can replace Imran Khan; party workers are attached to the chairman’s personality and his ideology,” he said and added that no one in the party had thought of claiming

Mr Khan’s position either.

Some senior and second-tier leadership still expressed doubts about Mr Qureshi, saying that his position was compromised since he was released from jail “very soon” compared to other party leaders who were languishing in jail following the May 9 riots.

However, for Mr Qureshi, this sort of criticism is merely ‘disinformation’ and ‘leg-pulling’. “Anyone can create doubts against me but it is merely disinformation and leg-pulling,” he said. “Imran himself included me in the core committee, leading the party’s brain to take effective decisions,” the PTI leader said, adding that every step would be taken after the advice of Imran Khan.

‘Not willing to accept anyone else’

PTI Central Punjab Additional General Secretary Azeemullah Khan said the PTI workers believed in Imran Khan only and they are not willing to accept any other leader. He said the party was going through a temporary crisis and the workers believed that the party chief would soon be back. “There is no personality in the PTI to replace Imran Khan,” he said, adding that leaders like Fawad Chaudhry and Asad Umar who parted ways with the PTI soon after May 9 showed that they were in line with the establishment.

He said all workers, who would be holding protests in all 10 districts of the central Punjab region on Monday, believed the Islamabad court’s conviction decision was taken and “written in haste” and would not hold ground too long except for the delaying tactics being employed by the rulers. He, however, feared that protective bails granted to Imran Khan by courts could be cancelled since he would not be able to appear before relevant courts.

PTI Lahore president Sheikh Imtiaz said party workers did not have cent per cent faith in anyone else. The PTI leader added that the party chief had already given detailed instructions through video-link meetings to Mr Qureshi, party leaders, and ticket-holders about the affairs of the party in the days to come.

‘No deviation’

He said the party had given clear instructions from peaceful protests to going to general elections. “Mr Qureshi will not be able to deviate from Mr Khan’s instructions,” he added.

PTI sources said Imran Khan had constituted two committees — a larger core committee comprising leaders from all provinces as well as some smaller committees to run the party affairs and a core committee. He said Mr Khan had held detailed meetings with the party’s provincial and regional presidents, core committee members, legal team and the media team.

Mr Qureshi said he had held two meetings of the core committee and the issue at hand was to ensure quick legal aid to Mr Khan and added that the law experts said that the conviction would be turned down in no time. Accusing the government of employing delaying tactics, he said, “Our first priority is to challenge the conviction decision and make efforts for the party chairman’s release”.

Meanwhile, sources close to Parvez Elahi and Moonis Elahi’s family told Dawn that both father and son were committed to the PTI and Imran Khan. They said some family members recently met Parvez Elahi in jail and stated that he was in “high spirits though the government was making efforts to pressurise him”.