October 5, 2023
ISLAMABAD – Breaking his silence, Dar said: “Of course, the incident [May 9] was orchestrated to thwart the appointment [of the army chief]. I believe that Imran Khan also had information from within the institution suggesting that the long march could potentially influence either the appointment or the removal of Gen Asim Munir.”
Dar also announced quitting the PTI and politics, noting that he initiated his political journey with the Imran-led party and was now concluding it at the very same starting point.
He is now among many party leaders who have parted ways with the PTI following the May 9 violence — when protests erupted across the country following Imran’s first arrest.
Last month, the PTI had claimed that Dar was “abducted” in Karachi’s Malir Cantt by “unknown persons” and taken to an undisclosed location. The local police had denied arresting the PTI leader.
Dar’s mother had also released a video message claiming her son had been abducted and that the ‘abductors’ were denying the whereabouts of her son. She had demanded that her son should be produced before the courts so that he could defend allegations levelled against him.
Subsequently, the brother-in-law of the PTI leader, through his lawyer, had filed a petition before the Sindh High Court and contended that Dar was taken away by some persons in plain clothes and travelling in vehicles having no registration numbers on Sept 9.
A day earlier, the SHC had directed the police to register a case if a cognisable offence was made out about Dar’s alleged disappearance.
However, in a surprising turn of events, Dar appeared in Dunya TV programme ‘On the Front’ today, almost 20 days after reports of his abduction had surfaced.
At the outset of the interview, Dar was asked about the “masterminds” of the May 9 violence.
“I have always praised the army, our martyrs and I always appreciated them. On May 6 I had left to visit my family. I believe that the May 9 incident did not occur in a day,” Dar responded.
He claimed that after the PTI was ousted through a no-confidence vote last year, “two mindsets” emerged in the party.
“One mindset included Azam Swati, Hammad Azhar, Murad Saeed and Farrukh Habib. Although my friends, they were supporting the politics of confrontation,” he alleged.
“Then there was a mindset which had people like Asad Umar, Omar Ayub, Ali Muhammad Ali, Shafqat Mehmood and I, who were talking about reconciliation with the army.”
Dar clarified that while May 9 might appear to be a specific date, the circumstances leading to the riots had been brewing and could have erupted at any time.
During PTI meetings, discussions revolved around the potential targeting of state institutions, with Dar asserting that Imran endorsed this stance. He stated, “There were talks about the possibility of attacking state institutions in the event of Imran’s arrest, and we foresaw Imran’s detention, which ultimately occurred on May 9.”
When questioned about his willingness to testify against Imran in court, he responded, “I am prepared to appear in court and evaluate the situation.”
He observed that the lives of PTI workers underwent significant changes following the May 9 incident.
In response to a query regarding responsibility for the present state of affairs, Dar attributed the current situation to Imran Khan’s decisions, emphasising that the forthcoming elections would determine the direction of the party.
He commented, “The governments in two provinces were also dissolved; had they remained in power, the events of May 9 might not have occurred.”
He expressed that he initially viewed PTI as a platform for “clean politics.” However, he lamented that after May 9, it had become a “disgraceful blemish” that would take considerable time to erase.
Dar emphasised that it was essential to recognise that PTI’s foundations were severely shaken following the events of May 9. He stated, “The entire party structure has been dismantled. You may have supporters, but the absence of effective leadership is glaring.”
He pointed out that even if the PPP and PML-N faced challenging times, the impact was primarily on their second-tier leadership. However, in the case of PTI, it was the grassroots workers who felt the brunt of the situation.
Dar admitted that he considered himself a “misfit” in the current political landscape.
Reflecting on his decision-making process, he revealed, “I had an offer and an opportunity from the beginning to hold a press conference and leave PTI, but I took five months to evaluate the situation. I was torn between decisions, but I ultimately realised that the necessary environment for change was not emerging and the space was not being created.”
He noted that other political parties had encountered challenging periods in the past, but their voter support endured.
“For instance, when Bhutto was executed, some believed that the PPP would disappear, but its voter base has remained strong for over 50 years, particularly in Sindh,” he explained.
“Similarly, those who exiled Nawaz Sharif thought that his voters would no longer remain intact, but his support remains robust here. Even though Imran Khan is currently in jail, he still commands a vote bank.”
Dar expressed his belief that these three major parties should come together to engage in discussions about national issues, particularly those affecting the general population, and collectively work towards resolving them.
No legal standing: PTI
In response to Dar’s statement, the PTI dismissed the assertions made by their “missing party leader” as “old wine in a new bottle.”
In a statement issued following the interview’s broadcast, the PTI said that after 5 months and 24 days of “enforced disappearance”, the interview carried no weight in the eyes of the public and lacked any legal standing.
The PTI voiced concerns that these “tactics” could potentially be employed against other party leaders as well.
“It is possible that Sadaqat Abbasi, Farrukh Habib, and Sheikh Rashid may also experience similar situations, and we may witness similar dramas being aired in the future.”
The party called for a judicial commission to thoroughly investigate the events of May 9.
PTI Secretary General Omar Ayub raised questions on the conditions the interview was given under, termed it a “staged encounter”.
PTI leader Hammad Azhar also expressed concern, stating that Dar’s interview has raised concerns among the families of missing party workers.
“The families of other abducted individuals of PTI are now extremely distressed after seeing Usman Dar’s interview.”
The former minister said the families were fearing for the safety of their loved ones. “They obviously know that such forced statements have come as a result of unbearable torture,” he said in a post on X.