PAKISTAN’S Interior Minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has strongly reacted to a statement of the Indian Foreign Minister, Sushma Swaraj who reportedly said on Sunday last that Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Prime Minister Narendra Modi enjoyed good relations but some forces didn’t want normalisation of bilateral ties.
Just note: It was not the PM’s Advisor on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz or his Special Assistant, Tariq Fatmi or the Foreign Secretary, Aizaz Chaudhary or the Foreign Office spokesman Nafees Zakria or even the PM’s spokesman Dr Mussadik Malik who reacted to the Indian Foreign Minister’s remarks. But bafflingly enough it was the country’s Interior Minister who took upon himself to react on behalf of the PM who holds the portfolio of the Foreign Ministry as well. Was Nisar authorized by the PM to perform a task which is normally attended to by Sartaj, Fatmi, Aizaz, Nafees or Mussadik on Nawaz’s behalf? Or did he decide in his own infinite wisdom to double as the Foreign Minister as well?
What was more intriguing was Nisar’s claim on behalf of Premier Nawaz that PM’s relations with any world leader were above his personal relations, and that ‘Sushma should not try to portray Nawaz-Modi relations as personal.’ Here too one would like to know if Nawaz had authorized Nisar to make clear to the world that the nature of his relations with any world leader should never be viewed as personal. But that is getting too persona, isn’t it?. How does Nisar know the nature of PM’s relations with each and every world leader and especially with one who had attended a very private ceremony of PM’s close family at his private residence?
And now coming to the crux of the matter which one thought had made it impossible for Nisar to resist the temptation of either playing to the gallery or to speak for those who Sushma believes were opposed to the normalisation of bilateral ties between India and Pakistan one wonders at Nisar’s make-believe naivety. Everybody and his auntie knows on whose behalf the Defence of Pakistan Council led by Jamat-Ud-Dawa of Hafiz Saeed operates and what is its assignment. Being the Interior Minister of his country, Nisar perhaps knows this better than anybody else especially better than the Foreign Minister of India. So, his question to Sushma to point out which forces were against good ties between Pakistan and India appears to be more rhetorical than anything else. And to use his own well worn phrase, it was nothing more than political point scoring on his part.
Though it is not his call as the Interior Minister but Nisar has very rightly questioned Sushma’s claim that New Delhi was serious in normalising relations with Islamabad. “If the Indian government is serious, then why it has slammed the door shut on bilateral talks with Pakistan,” he added aptly. But then he should have also asked the creators of Jamat-Ud-Dawa and Jaish-i-Mohammad type of groups why they keep disrupting the normalization processes by staging incidents like Mumbai and the Pathankot.
Again being the interior minister he was out of line issuing a rejoinder on something that falls in the domain of the Foreign Minister who is none other than the PM himself, still one would find it impossible not agree with Nisar that Hindu extremist groups like RSS, Shiv Sena and Abhinav Bharat are the biggest hurdle in the way of normalisation of ties as such groups have influence over the BJP-led Indian government. But similar hurdles fabricated by an establishment suffering from tunnel vision also exist in Pakistan which more than match the Indian extremist groups in hostility.
Nisar perhaps sees himself as God’s own special gift to this ill-starred country. And that is perhaps why he does not see any contradiction in his position on the issue of leaking to the media ‘confessional’ videos of persons under investigation for various offenses. Just a couple of months back he had threatened in one of his frequent self-righteous political point scoring outbursts to make public a ‘confessional’ video of Dr Asim Hussain. And now he says he has no knowledge about how such videos have been leaked to the media. He had the nerve to pass the buck on to the Sindh government conveniently hiding behind the stock excuse that law and order was a provincial subject. He had the cheek to also ask the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to take punitive measures in this regard. Punitive measures against whom? Speaking on the floor of the National Assembly Monday last, he said, the issue needed to be addressed as it is influencing judicial proceedings and forcing undue media focus.
On the face of it, it appears as if these videos were leaked by the interested quarters in order perhaps to ensure that both the PPP and the MQM would remain on the right side of Imran and Qadri come what may when they make their second attempt to topple the elected government through street agitation. Not that Imran and Qadri do not have a legitimate democratic right to agitate against the government of the day. The foot dragging by the government both on the ToRs for the proposed Judicial Commission for probing Panama papers and the cases of police brutality witnessed on June 17, 2014 in Lahore in which some 17 people were killed and 85 or so injured make the opposition’s case against the government highly convincing.
Perhaps the MQM would switch over to the opposition for good if they are offered a price they cannot refuse. The case of the PPP is different. They would like to remain on the side of the opposition until the general elections in Azad Jammu and Kashmir where the party is being led by its youthful chairman Bilawal. They know success in AJ&K elections would reinforce Bilawal’s credentials as his mother’s successor.
Also, the Party would like the ToRs to remain confined to probing only the Panama papers which do not name any one of their leaders. If the ToRs are expanded to include other cases of stashing looted money abroad, the PPP as well as some of prominent PTI leaders would find it impossible to escape being named and shamed and therefore would oppose the expansion tooth and nail. And that more than anything else would guarantee that no agreement is reached on the ToRs between the government and the opposition which in turn would turn out to be politically disastrous for the PMLN and its chances of winning the 2018 election.
The powers that be are perhaps hoping that the street agitation would end up, by August-September this year, giving rise to a constitutional logjam creating enough space for it to intervene and replace the elected set up with the so-called ‘reformist’ set up of technocrats sending all political elements home.
Being a highly ambitious person, perhaps Nisar is hoping to lead this ‘reformist’ ruling group and that is perhaps why he is helping the establishment to make it impossible for the PPP and MQM to go back to the fold of Parliament as they did the last time to rescue the Nawaz government. Come to think of it, it was Nisar who had made it possible for the Imran-Qadri combine to reach the red-zone in 2014 dharna session so quickly and so easily and he had even allowed the agitators to storm the Parliament building as well as the PM house and the PTV.
At that time one had thought it all happened because of Nisar’s mishandling of the situation. But when one recalls the frustration that was evident from Nisar’s body language in those days and his provocative entanglement with Aitzaz without any rhyme or reason one is more than convinced that he hd a hand in it somewhere and if there is a repeat, he would once again be working against the democratic forces.