Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has ‘warned’ Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leadership that he would contest general elections in independent capacity if ‘defamation campaign’ against him allegedly patronised by some party bigwigs does not stop.
The PML-N stalwarts suggest that the former interior minister is not happy over the role of Nawaz Sharif in connection with Nisar’s tiff with Maryam Nawaz, according to sources. Nawaz Sharif is siding with his daughter and is in no mood to mend fences with former interior minister, said the sources.
During a recent meeting with PML-N President and Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif in Lahore, Nisar is said to have conveyed to Shehbaz that he would not contest general elections on PML-N ticket if senior party leadership continues to target him.
Moreover, Maryam’s recent statement that the party will decide (about whether or not) to award ticket to Nisar for general polls “added fuel to fire.”
Nisar lately remained silent and avoided commenting on party’s policies on the reported insistence of Punjab CM but responded to Maryam’s statement. “Nisar directly attacking Nawaz Sharif and Maryam…Shehbaz does not want under his leadership…he wants ceasefire,” said a party source in direct knowledge of the matter.
Sources said that Nisar felt humiliated after former PM repeatedly turned down Shehbaz’s requests to meet the former interior minister. PML-N sources in Punjab chapter said Shehbaz wants to address Nisar’s reservations given the latter’s influence in his political constituency as well as inside the party.
“Nisar is among those heavyweights whose victory in the elections is not dependent on the party ticket. He has his own constituency—which is the reason he contested elections independently in the past and managed to win,” said a provincial lawmaker from Punjab requesting anonymity. Nisar also wields influence on the ‘Rajput lobby’ in PML-N that has strong presence in Punjab as well as at the centre, the leader added.
He said if Nisar contests elections independently, it would be a setback for Shehbaz’s leadership.
In 2013 general elections, Nisar contested elections from two Punjab Assembly and two National Assembly seats. Of them, he secured one provincial assembly seat PP-6 as an independent candidate and lost PP-7, which he contested on PML-N ticket.
The ex-interior minister also lost NA-53 seat on PML-N ticket but secured NA-52 seat on party ticket. Moreover, Nisar has long been regarded as the most influential political figure in Rawalpindi Division who had a direct involvement in awarding party tickets for general elections in this region but the PML-N’s defeat in three out of seven NA seats of Rawalpindi Division (NA 53, 55, 56) in 2013 general elections has greatly undermined his standing in the party. In addition, out of 13 seats of Rawalpindi Division in Punjab Assembly, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) won five seats in 2013 general polls.
“Ever since the party has been in trouble following Mian sahib’s disqualification, he (Nisar) has been targeting Nawaz Sharif and his policies. He has also publicly criticised Maryam on several occasions…he has often portrayed himself as a larger than life figure, someone who is above party discipline. This irks our leadership,” said a PML-N senator.
However, there are many in Punjab PML-N chapter who believe that Nisar’s displeasure with the party leadership had much to do with the fact that former PM did not heed former interior minister’s advice of not taking the path of confrontation with state institutions. “Nisar has been bitter because he was not heard…things would have been different and the party would not be in the mess it is in today,” said the sources.
The sources said that the possibility for Nisar to formally quit PML-N is nowhere in sight. “With leaders like Shehbaz at his back, Nisar sees no reason to quit the party.”