ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has advised Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to accept whatever the Supreme Court verdict in the Panamagate case. The word of advice came minutes before the apex court announced it would give the final judgment in the case on Friday.
He urged Sharif to keep his feet on the ground if the verdict comes in his favour and react ‘very patiently’ if the judges rule against him. “If the apex court rules in your favour, there will be people who will provoke you, but you must protect not only yourself but also the country,” he said while speaking at a news conference which had been postponed twice.
“When any person doesn’t accept a verdict of the superior court, then it means the law of jungle prevails in the country. Whatever the verdict, it should be accepted whether one agrees with it or not,” Nisar told the news conference which, in his words, was the ‘most difficult’ news conference of his political career. “I’m done with politics.”
“My party has some reservations and I agree with them but for the sake of the nation we all should forgive and forget [in either case],” he added.
Nisar said he would continue to stress on evolving harmony amongst the national institutions. “Pakistan is passing through a dangerous phase and the only way to pass through it successfully is through forging unity in our ranks.”
The minister said the PML-N was a national political asset and it must be kept united. “Mian Sahib, don’t worry about me. As a backbencher I would continue to support you,” he added. “As one of the founding members of the party, I cannot even think of harming its interests.”
Nisar said he wanted to take the ‘extreme step’ of stepping down as interior minister and member of the National Assembly “until this [Thursday] morning”. However, he changed the decision after meeting ‘some friends’.
Earlier, Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif met Nisar in the federal capital in a last-ditch effort to win him back – but to no avail. It was the second meeting between the two in less than 24 hours. Shehbaz was reportedly accompanied by other PML-N leaders, including Ishaq Dar, Khawaja Saad Rafique and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.
Nisar, known as a hard-core ideologue within the party, quashed the impression that he might join some other political party, saying he could not even think of switching loyalties. “I have a 33-year-long association with the party and cannot imagine of ditching it at this critical juncture.”
He said if the court ruled against Sharif then he must not be considered for any slot. “Those who are desperately making efforts for positions should be obliged.” Nisar said he was proud to learn that even political rivals were convinced that he would never leave the PML-N.
Nisar did not target the prime minister but criticised some of the party leaders who have been speaking against him [Nisar] in the presence of Sharif with an objective to create differences. “Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is a decent and amiable person and has worked hard to establish the party.”
However, the minister complained that he was kept out of crucial consultations on the Panamagate case, though he had been part of every meeting of the party during the last 33 years.
“I was suddenly excluded from the PML-N meetings … I was not invited to senior consultative meetings for the past month and a half,” he said, describing it as ‘humiliating’ for him.
During that period, Nisar said he was invited to just three meetings – national security, cabinet and parliamentary committee meetings.
“Save for the parliamentary committee meeting, I attended [all] these meetings,” he said. “I have stopped attending parliamentary committee meeting since long.”
“Some people said I had missed the train. The fact is I haven’t missed any train. I don’t just get on any train,” he said and added: “I’ve been on this train since the very beginning.”
The interior minister said he was a victim of ‘internal intrigues’. “Conspirators are found in every political party; however, it is the responsibility of the party leadership to distinguish between a loyalist and a conspirator.”
He said during a cabinet meeting he asked the premier why conspiracies were being hatched against him when he was not registering a complaint against any other cabinet colleague.
Without mentioning any name, Nisar said there was a person who in addition to being involved in financial irregularities also had moral issues.
He concluded with some sound advice to the prime minister, whom he praised throughout as a ‘great and humble leader’.
“I want to tell Nawaz Sharif – if I was with you, I would tell you that if you are absolved in the Supreme Court: keep your feet on the ground. There will be those who will ask for heads to roll: I beseech you, you are a humble man, do not fall for this.
“I said this in the party meeting, and I’ll say it again: the Supreme Court’s decision should be accepted at all costs. If the apex court’s decision is not respected, it will be as if Pakistan is ruled by the law of the jungle,” the minister said.
The minister said he would continue to stress on developing harmony among state institutions. “Pakistan is facing a dangerous phase and there is only one way to stand against it: to get united.”
Speaking on civil-military relations, Nisar said he was proud of his family’s army background that spans over four generations but added that he “never compromised on civilian supremacy”.
“Ask any general if I’ve ever sought to sacrifice civilian rule for my personal political gains,” he said, in apparent reference to speculations and rumours that Nisar has always been ‘the army’s man’.
“I do whatever it takes to maintain civil-military relations for the sake of supremacy of civilian rule,” he said, recounting multiple instances where he had run-ins with serving generals over various matters.
“Ask any military or intelligence leader if I’ve ever attempted to undermine the government for political gain.”
He said during the Dawn Leaks issue, he tried to handle the situation.
Nisar said he had been playing the role of devil’s advocate. “I went to Mian Sahib three months ago and I told him that I have always given you the bad news. I have played the devil’s advocate. He said ‘I like this in you and you should continue speaking the truth’.”
He said he had been playing the role of a whisper which was played in the Roman’s Empire by 14 or 15-year-old boys who used to stand on both sides of the emperor and continued to remind him that ‘Caesar you’re a human, you’re human.’
According to Nisar, he might have many flaws but he was not a hypocrite.