PTI leader and former minister Farrukh Habib, whose whereabouts had been unknown after his arrest from Gwadar last month, resurfaced in a press conference on Monday evening, where he announced parting ways with Imran Khan’s party.
Breaking his silence, Habib said: “For around three weeks, I disconnected my contact with my family for some reasons. We have all been away from our homes since the unfortunate incident of May 9.”
The ex-PTI loyalist was flanked by leaders of the Istehkam-i-Pakistan Party during the press conference. The IPP, which Habib said he has joined, is the newly formed Jahangir Khan Tarin-led political camp most PTI deserters have entered.
Since the May 9 riots, which broke out soon after Imran’s arrest in Islamabad, over a hundred prominent leaders were picked up and many of them later held press conferences to announce their decision to quit the PTI.
Habib, who is thought to be a close confidant of the PTI chief and was one of the most vocal party leaders after the May 9 riots, was arrested in Gwadar last month by plain clothed security personnel. However, he was never presented in any court.
According to the PTI’s media wing, an application had been filed in the Lahore High Court for his recovery, but no action was taken in this regard.
On Saturday, Habib’s wife wrote to Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa, seeking early recovery of her husband. “We fear that my husband is being tortured in custody to change his political loyalty,” she had said.
During the press conference today, Habib said he had an old connection with the media. “You have seen me taking part in student politics in Lahore. You also have seen me playing an active role in my former party PTI.”
He recalled that since the May 9 riots, he reflected about his political struggle. “We wanted to make Pakistan the country of Quaid-i-Azam and I repeatedly asked myself this question. Self-accountability is very important. I was also in that phase and I took my time to make a decision on this.”
“I realised that we took our real struggle to the path of violence. We stepped away from Pakistan which was envisioned by Quaid-i-Azam,” he said.
Habib recalled that the PTI government was ousted via a vote of no-confidence constitutionally, but regretted that the party did not sit in peace after that. Expressing his perspective, he said the PTI should have opted for a “democratic struggle” and waited for elections.
“But you opted for violent resistance. We have faced beatings as youth leaders but we never opted for a violent approach. We used to work so dedicatedly for our vision,” Habib said. “But if you look at that struggle and compare it with the post-May 9 violence, you will see a difference.
“There were messages for people to take to the streets and their minds were hijacked. Their sentiments were provoked that Pakistan’s institutions are working against them,” he claimed.
Habib stated that “a message of hatred” was run on television all the time and a “bullet approach instead of ballot approach” was taken.
The PTI leadership, he continued, should have shown responsibility. “But he [Imran] did not show it and wanted people to fight. He did not even know who suffered what injuries.”
During the presser, Habib also lauded the Pakistan Army for their sacrifices.
He claimed that Imran called himself a democratic leader but at the same time sought help from other quarters, asserting that the real test of a leader was the people and elections.
“A leader has to give vision to people but unfortunately Khan sahab kept promoting violence. I had not joined the Imran Khan who is a promoter of violence. I joined the Imran Khan who spoke of social justice,” Habib said.
Talking about the cipher — a document that the PTI claims contained a threat from the United States to oust Imran from office — Habib said Imran built a “political narrative” and used it for political gains.
He also said that he was unaware that the PTI chief had taken watches from the Toshakhana depository and was “kept in the dark”.
“You have to give answers. You are giving rise to violent politics, you don’t have high moral grounds and then you are also targeting institutions,” he lamented, claiming that Imran provoked people outside his Zaman Park residence too.
Habib then addressed the youth and said: “I am asking you to think and take into consideration some facts. I am not asking you to support any political party.”
He stated that the PTI was his “political birth” but “Khan sahab deviated from his vision and handed us the likes of Farah Gogi and Usman Dar”.
He further stated that several innocent people with no criminal record were languishing in jails, adding that the decision to part ways with the PTI was difficult but one had to keep the interest of the country first.
Before concluding the press conference, Habib said he had decided to join the Jahangir Khan Tarin-led Istehkam-e-Pakistan Party. He called Tarin a reformist and expressed he felt “at home” working under the former.
“If we can work day and night for the PTI, we can also work for the IPP. Ultimately we have to work for Pakistan,” he added.
PTI leaders term resignation ‘forced’
Following the press conference, the PTI welcomed Habib’s “recovery” and said his presser was a part of the “process” of sidelining the party from politics, which it said was underway for the past 17 months.
“It is not possible to mislead the nation by changing the face and style and repeating the same script, nor will it be possible to mix lies with truth,” a statement released by the PTI Central Media Department said.
It added that all the attempts to sideline the PTI were only increasing the support for the party in the public.
Taking to X (formerly Twitter), party leader Zulfi Bukhari said press conferences and television shows on “forced resignations/confessions” were becoming “comical”.
“Another abducted leader reappears straight onto national television and the few weeks they were missing and going through hell they realise they’ve been following the wrong leader, party and path,” he said.
Bukhari added that Habib tried his hardest to “resist the pressure and torture” to the very end, adding that he was glad the latter was back home safe.
PTI’s Hammad Azhar said earlier people were forced to just leave the party but now the “demands” had increased i.e. talk shows, joining IPP and criticising Imran.
Meanwhile, PTI’s regional president for Islamabad Ali Awan said the public was aware of the truth irrespective of whatever was being said.
Party secretary general Omar Ayub Khan said the press conference was another “staged encounter”.
“Farrukh Habib’s body language and words were not in sync or coordination. Democracy is being dismantled one brick at a time. Pakistan is being harmed,” he said in a post on X.