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Monday, February 26, 2024  
15 Shaban 1445  

PTI ticket-holder backpedals on disavowal but questions remain

Former MPA Sajid Bhatti records two videos, but the quandary deepens
A combination of photos show former MPA Sajid Bhatti. Screengrab via X
A combination of photos show former MPA Sajid Bhatti. Screengrab via X

In a bizarre turn of events, a PTI ticket-holder who declared he was quitting the party to join PML-N has backpedalled on his announcement, PTI sources have claimed.

However, the haircut of the former MPA in question leaves many questions unanswered. The fact that the PTI leader is now out of the country also raised the possibility that he retracted his earlier statement after fleeing the country.

Sajid Bhatti from Mandi Bahauddin has left two versions of his video statement on the internet: one showing him disowning the PTI and the other reaffirming his allegiance to Imran Khan’s party.

When Aaj News, in a fact-check effort, contacted people close to Bhatti, an interesting story emerged.

Rizwan Ullah, the coordinator of Bhatti, was contacted by Aaj News correspondent in Punjab’s city after Bhatti’s number was found switched off.

When asked, Rizwan said that the former MPA was in the United States. He confirmed that both the videos are original and the first one was recorded in Saudi Arabia, around 25 to 30 days after performing Hajj.

“The second video was recorded in the US,” he said.

He stated that Bhatti left Pakistan on May 6—two days before the May 9 events. He had safely gone to Dubai, the coordinator said.

Bhatti is a former MPA from PP-67 Mandi Bahauddin. He was elected Member of Provincial Assembly of Punjab in the 2018 general election and served as parliamentary secretary for schools education during 2019-2021.

In response to a query, the coordinator shared the itinerary of Bhatti’s journey. The former MPA left for Dubai from Pakistan on May 6, 2023. He then went to Saudi Arabia from where he left for the US. He then went to Canada. But he returned to the US.

“Right now he is in America,” Rizwan said, reiterating that Bhatti was out of Pakistan from May 6.

According to Rizwan, a case pertaining to corruption was registered against the former MPA in Gujranwala. He went on to add that Bhatti’s family had old relations with the Chaudhry family.

Bhatti is living with his family in the US, he said.

While Rizwanullah insisted the first video was recorded in Saudi Arabia, he did not say what made Bhatti to record a statement that he would shun later.

What is in the videos

On Monday, December 4, journalist Gharidah Farooqi shared a video of the former MPA.

Bhatti was seen in a short haircut and wearing a shalwar kameez.

Farooqi, in her post on X, wrote that the PTI was disintegrating before the elections as Bhatti had “parted ways” with the party.

In the 30-second video, Bhatti condemned the May 9 events and the people involved in violent protests.

He hailed the army and army martyrs. Bhatti was heard saying that he had no link with Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi and Moonis Elahi.

The video garnered more than 300,000 views on X as of Monday noon.

PTI’s Moonis Elahi responded to Farooqi’s claim with another video of Bhatti in which he was seen sitting on a grey couch and wearing a light blue shirt and blue jeans.

“This is the real version. Listen to the date,” Elahi captioned the 25-second video.

“I Sajid Ahmed Khan Bhatti, former MPA from PP-67 Mandi Bahauddin rebuff a video related to me and released today on December 4.”

“I am with PTI and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi and InshAllah I will continue to do so. Thanks,” he said.

The second video show Bhatti with significantly longer hair, indicating it was recorded after a few weeks after the first video was taken.

In the recent past, many PTI leaders after getting released from jail have parted ways with the party to either quit politics or join a new party. They were arrested as part of the government’s crackdown on the people behind the violent protests that broke out when former prime minister Imran Khan was arrested on May 9 in a graft case.

Many political experts have expressed concerns over such video statements and press conferences while saying that the PTI was “going through a tough time”.

Last month, PTI Chairman Imran Khan wrote a letter to Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa and urged the Supreme Court to safeguard his party’s “right to liberty, to associate, assemble and speak” as guaranteed under the Constitution.

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