ALTHOUGH as the point man of a government currently braving a terror campaign, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan should provide regular updates to raise the public morale, he doesn’t speak very often. But on the occasion he does, he invariably creates waves.
Who wouldn’t recall his lament in parliament when Pakistan’s enemy number one, the mass murderer Hakeemullah Mehsud, was taken out by a missile fired from a US drone? Nisar Ali Khan was so outraged that the floor of the house shook with his anger because the man he was so keen to negotiate with was no more.
If someone else matched the interior minister’s sense of outrage at Mehsud’s killing it was the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan, who also wanted to talk to the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, and the drone strike took away his favourite interlocutor.
With Hakeemullah gone and Nisar Ali Khan having had to face the brunt of Imran Khan’s dharna as interior minister, one would have thought the two Aitchisonians would never see eye to eye again. But one couldn’t have been more gravely mistaken.
For long, Imran Khan has used the derisory term ‘muk muka’ to describe the Charter of Democracy concluded between the PML-N and the PPP in which the two parties pledged not to repeat their nasty politics of persecuting the other when either was in power in the 1990s.
On Thursday, just two days ago, when the interior minister came under renewed attack for being apparently AWOL during a crisis period, he addressed a news conference and, instead of updating the audience about the latest measures in the context of the National Action Plan to counter terrorism, he laid into the opposition PPP.
Mr Khan lashed out at the leader of the opposition Syed Khursheed Shah after the latter echoed calls of some of the family members of those killed in the Army Public School and more recently the Charsadda terror atrocities in calling for a judicial inquiry to ascertain possible gaps in security measures.
Rather than find fault with Shah’s demand, Nisar Ali Khan said he was in a position to ‘confirm’ Imran Khan’s charge of ‘muk muka’ between his own party and the PPP, and accused the opposition leader of securing undue favours from the prime minister. He did not specify what these favours were but accused the opposition of undermining the action against terrorism.
Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s latest comments were reminiscent of his remarks when the PPP protested against the manner of arrest and apparent persecution of a key leader, Dr Asim Hussain by the federally controlled paramilitary Rangers in Sindh.
Rather than ask the force under his command to present evidence in the anti-terrorism court against Dr Hussain to secure his conviction, the minister had launched into a tirade against his critics and said he could present ‘tapes’ against the detained PPP leader which were full of embarrassing, incriminating material. For weeks, even months, we have waited to hear those juicy conversations.
I recall Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan from when he served in the Nawaz Sharif cabinet in the 1990s as a pleasant, civil and an amiable person. He was on top of his ministry. Despite the fact he enjoyed unrivalled proximity to the Sharifs, he had no arrogance.
One can only speculate but, it seems, two things have happened since, making him bitter and averse to criticism. The first which left him perhaps filled with guilt, even self-loathing, seemed to be his role in the appointment of the then army chief, Gen Pervez Musharraf in 1998.
Nisar Ali Khan’s brother, Lt-Gen Iftikhar Ali Khan who’d been appointed defence secretary by Sharif, was Musharraf’s senior and the commando had served under him. When after Gen Jahangir Karamat’s resignation, the prime minister was confronted with making a choice, the brothers are said to have proposed Musharraf’s name forcefully. The rest is history.
Nisar Ali Khan has always been a religious man but his years in political wilderness following Musharraf’s coup seemed to have pushed him further towards the right. Much of this information comes from sources in the PML-N and is admittedly speculative.
Therefore, it isn’t clear whether his deep-seated dislike for the PPP stems more from the allegations of corruption against the largely Sindh-based party or the avowedly secular nature of the politics it pursues.
One can believe any criticism levelled against the PPP over issues ranging from misgovernance to corruption but it is difficult to fathom that a party that has been at the receiving end of the wrath of the terrorists would harbour a soft corner for them or would want to undermine the war on terrorism.
One can be sure that a conscientious man like Nisar Ali Khan is doing the best he can against the multiple scourges of intolerance, bigotry and terrorism in the country but he should also be open to suggestions for improvements. It isn’t the PPP alone which is critical.
He need only read the op-ed pages of this newspaper alone to realise how unhappy are some of those who helped author the NAP at his own invitation. Yes, these people are not partisan political commentators but former law-enforcement officers of impeccable reputation and integrity.
The writer is a former editor of Dawn.
Published in Dawn, January 30th, 2016