Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, a key leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), will not be a part of the high-level team that will negotiate with the government on the timing of the elections and the choosing of a caretaker set-up.
According to sources, Chaudhry Nisar has excused himself from the exercise – and has been replaced with another senior PML-N leader, Raja Zafarul Haq. Initially, those who were part of the negotiation team were the party’s senior-most leaders, Chaudhry Nisar, Senator Ishaq Dar, and MNA Sardar Mehtab Khan Abbasi.
According to sources, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) committee comprises Syed Khurshid Shah, Mian Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo and Qamar Zaman Kaira. Back-channel negotiations have begun in Islamabad. Chaudhry Nisar’s absence is being attributed to differences with the party’s leadership over what the opposition’s stand should be on the timing of the next general elections.
Sources claimed that PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif is not in favour of early elections – and wanted to let the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led government complete its tenure or, at most, push for elections in February. On the other hand, the fiery Chaudhry Nisar is said to have been insisting on pressurising the government and pushing for elections in November. The ruling PPP was obviously always in favour of delayed polls.
With Chaudhry Nisar out of the country, the PML-N, according to sources, agreed to go with the PPP’s stand on general elections next year. Upon hearing this, Chaudhry Nisar is said to have refused to be a part of the negotiation team.
In fact, sources claimed, Chaudhry Nisar earlier did not even speak to Prime Minister Rajaz Pervaiz Ashraf on the issue of choosing the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC).
Sardar Mehtab Abbasi while talking with The Express Tribune expressed ignorance about Chaudhry Nisar’s refusal to be part of negotiations with PPP. Confirming the talks, he said negotiating with the PPP was not unusual, given that it is now a constitutional requirement, but claimed that full-fledged talks over the caretaker set up would begin after Ramazan.
Interestingly, Abbasi said that he had taken Chaudhry Nisar ‘into confidence’ over the appointment of Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim – suggesting that the leader of the opposition was not part of the final decision. On when a caretaker set up and the next elections could be held, Abbasi said did not comment, saying that things would become clearer after Ramazan.
Chaudhry Nisar is expected to return to Pakistan on July 22.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 21st, 2012.