ISLAMABAD: While Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chinese President Xi Jinping sign ‘historic’ deals to usher in a new era of development in Pakistan, the man who would have to see these deals through has been conspicuously missing in action throughout Xi's two-day visit.
The country’s top security czar Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan isn’t known to delegate his work, especially when it comes to high-level talks with key allies. Yet, the minister chose to spend the entire day yesterday at the Punjab House rather than meeting Chinese dignitaries and other senior cabinet members at the Prime Minister House, officials told The Express Tribune.
Read: Pakistan high on Chinese diplomatic agenda: Xi Jinping
On Tuesday, the interior minister did show up in the dying moments of the joint Parliament session, but he was not seen even shaking hands with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. To make matters worse, the interior minister avoided desk thumping during the PM and Chinese president's speech.
“He seemed in good health and had no important meetings lined up,” a senior official of the interior ministry revealed, perplexed over the minister’s decision to stay in the background during such high-level talks.
Nisar had been advised to brief a Chinese delegation headed by President Xi Jinping over security issues, including the proposed formation of a ‘special security division’ for Chinese workers attached to the multi-billion Pakistan-China Economic Corridor project, a cabinet member told The Express Tribune.
The premier had given the go-ahead to the interior ministry and asked Nisar to raise a 12,000 personnel-strong force with the help of the military to provide foolproof security to Chinese workers. However, both the interior minister and interior secretary remained absent in Tuesday’s meetings as well. “I’m stunned and shocked to find our senior colleague (Nisar) missing in today’s mega event despite repeated request by PM Sahib,” the cabinet member added.
Read: Economic corridor: 12,000-strong force to guard Chinese workers
Security issues remained the focus of talks between the Chinese president and Prime Minister Nawaz, leading many to enquire over the absence of the country’s interior minister. “Where is our security man in these security talks?” a cabinet member, who was deputed by the prime minister to host Chinese diplomats at the PM Secretariat, whispered to his colleague.
Another official claimed that the military’s ‘high-profile’ role in linking Gwadar to the rest of Pakistan and on to the western Chinese city of Kashgar, 3,000 kilometres away, may be the reason behind Nisar’s absence.
Read: Baloch ire prompts security fears for China-Pakistan Economic Corridor
“I suppose Chaudhry Sahib thought he was sidelined on this issue. It’s the military, not the interior ministry that is formulating a security plan to secure economic corridor agreements,” he claimed.
A formal announcement about formation of special security was scheduled to be announced during the Chinese President Xi Jinping's arrival, he revealed, but it was later decided not to make it public.
An estimated 8,000 security officials have been deployed for the security of over 8,112 Chinese workers in Pakistan, security officials said .
However, the cabinet member did not confirm why differences had developed between the prime minister and Nisar. There have been signs of growing distance between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.
The interior minister has remained absent from key meetings, particularly those on the Karachi operation, and it is learnt that he was not invited to these important huddles. An official said the PM wants to continue the Karachi operation with full force but Nisar also wants to take its credit.
Further, the premier was reportedly also not in favour of the interior minister’s reaction to UAE warning Pakistan of a “heavy price” over it’s ‘ambiguous views’ of the Yemen offensive. The minister had termed UAE’s statement as "unacceptable" and a "violation of all diplomatic norms".
Read: Yemen turmoil: UAE minister’s threat prompts angry rebuke
“The interior minister’s absence in the ceremony hosted in honour of the Chinese president has given further credence to reports of differences between PM and Nisar,” the cabinet member said.
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