Sultan M Hali
THE chasm between senior leadership in the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) appears to be widening. Instead of bridging the gap, vested interests are fanning the flames of break up. Disgruntled senior PML (N) leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has finally broken his silence and decided to air his grievances in public. In a statement, the party stalwart declared that PML-N has suppressed the right to have a different opinion. The PML-N leader, who has been associated with the party for over three decades, was expressing his opinions during an interview with a private television channel. Discussing the party’s incumbent leadership, the veteran politician said that he would not become part of any decision that makes Maryam Nawaz the party’s leader. He has expressed his distaste at the derision and disdain with which Nawaz Sharif’s daughter has been treating him. He believes that he deserves more respect than what Maryam Nawaz has shown him.
In an apparent reference to comparisons between Maryam and Benazir Bhutto, the former interior minister said that after Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s death, there was no other option but for Benazir to lead the party in the absence of her brothers, who were out of the country at that time. He perhaps believes that by pretending to be Benazir, Maryam does not become a great leader. The adversity that Benazir faced and the baptism under fire honed and sharpened Benazir’s skills. Maryam Nawaz not only lacks Benazir’s charisma but also her political acumen and vision. Speaking about his relationship with Imran Khan, Nisar said that some people point fingers at his friendship with the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairperson when they are unable to find anything against him. Critics forget that Imran and Ch. Nisar attended the same school and were chums in their formative years. He was apparently referring to some leaders of the PML-N who have denounced Nisar for openly opposing Nawaz Sharif’s stance on the party’s political strategy following the Supreme Court’s July 28 verdict which ousted the former prime minister from holding public office. “My relationship with Imran goes all the way back to school,” he said. The veteran politician stressed that he did not need a political party’s ticket to contest the elections. “I do not need anyone’s ticket to contest elections,” he said. “I have never applied for a ticket throughout the course of my life.” He said that he could criticize PML-N or PTI politically, but not for personal reasons. “I told Nawaz Sharif that I cannot [personally] criticize Imran Khan. This is a 30-year-long association, it should take 30 years for this association to end,” he said. Speaking to the media, Nisar said he had ‘suggested’ to Nawaz Sharif that PML-N should not move towards fighting with the judiciary and other state institutions. The former interior minister also refused to respond to questions about his disagreements with the party leadership.
PML (N) leadership has been using Pervez Rashid to denigrate Ch Nisar and launch verbal assaults at the seasoned politician. Readers may recall that late last year, The prime minister’s endorsement of Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif’s contention that Pakistan needs to “put its house in order” has exposed cracks in the ranks of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and provided an opportunity to opposition parties to criticize the government’s foreign and security policies. Khawaja Asif had acknowledged the existence of militant groups allegedly based in Pakistan, naming Lashkar-i-Taiba (LeT) and the Jaish-i-Mohammad (JeM) among the internationally banned outfits operating from within Pakistan. Reacting to the PM’s endorsement, in his assault on his own party’s government, former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan advised Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi not to embarrass the country at the international level. Even Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal endorsed the foreign minister’s viewpoint, vowing to take strict action against banned outfits that resurfaced under new names. In a statement issued through his spokesperson, PML-N stalwart and former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar had disputed both ministers’ statements, saying that comments on sensitive and important issues must be based on facts, and not assumptions. He had earlier said it was strange that at a time when the army chief was asserting that Pakistan had rendered enormous sacrifices that the world must acknowledge, the two ministers were parroting the position that Pakistan should “do more”. He said that both men had been ministers for the past four years, but had never expressed these views in meetings of the cabinet or the National Security Committee.
On the other hand, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) expressed serious concerns over the statements coming from cabinet members and called for a full-fledged debate in parliament on this “serious national security issue”. The debacle that PML (N) faced in the recent Senate elections have shaken them badly, especially when general elections are around the corner. Ch. Nisar’s press conference, in which he strongly condemned Nawaz Sharif for locking horns with Judiciary and his undue criticism against Army for meddling in politics and his suggestions to Nawaz Sharif to avoid confrontation with Nation Institutions, should be respected as sound advice, only if Mian Nawaz Sharif would listen to him. Nisar’s current rhetoric against Nawaz also shows the widening gap between leadership of PML-N. If the government was to be believed, the former interior minister was the one responsible for the present state of affairs.
—The writer is retired PAF Group Captain and a TV talk show host.