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Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal appeared on Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Saath on Geo News and tried to dispel impression Nisar has distanced himself from party leadership.

ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Saturday disputed a cabinet colleague’s account of remarks attributed to him, the latest in a spate of rejoinders issued by the senior minister over the past few days.

Appearing in a programme on Geo News on Saturday night, Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal tried to dispel the impression that Chaudhry Nisar had distanced himself from the party leadership over the Panama Papers saga and the JIT report.

He claimed that during the recent cabinet meeting, there was a consensus that the way the JIT had been working since its inception did not meet the requirements of justice.

He quoted Chaudhry Nisar as referring to his 35 year-long association with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and describing his loyalty as an asset he was proud of in his political journey.

Nearly an hour after the remarks were broadcast, an interior ministry spokesperson issued a strongly worded statement regretting the remarks attributed to Chaudhry Nisar.

The statement also chided the minister, without naming him, and held such leaders responsible for the situation the government was currently faced with.

It said the interior minister had not made the remarks that were repeatedly being attributed to him by a member of the cabinet.

It should be recalled that while the minister attended the cabinet meeting held earlier this week, he skipped the crucial PML-N parliamentary party meeting, held on Friday, on the basis of prior engagements.

The minster was at pains to state that this should not be misconstrued as something symbolic, since he could not make it to the meeting due to personal engagements.

In the same TV show, Mr Iqbal had also said there was a unanimity of views about the fact that the JIT matter had nothing to do with corruption and was politically-motivated.

The minister had stated, ostensibly in relation to the interior minister, that while one may complain about their advice being ignored, one’s character was defined by their decision to complain or to stand by the individual who was in trouble.

This was Chaudhry Nisar’s third rejoinder over remarks attributed to him in the past week. The minister, who is otherwise known for speaking his mind at press conferences, has hinted that he will soon speak to the media about the situation that had developed in the aftermath of the JIT report.

Immediately after the cabinet meeting on Thursday, the interior ministry spokesperson issued a statement contradicting remarks attributed to the minster that were aired by Geo News.

Terming the reporting “incorrect”, the spokesperson had said that the minister’s remarks in the cabinet meeting were on the record and were altogether different from what was being reported.

The very next day, another statement warned the media to refrain from speculating on the remarks being erroneously attributed to the minister. “There were no heated exchanges at the cabinet meeting, nor did the minister walk out of the meeting,” the statement issued on Friday said.

Observers are attaching great significance to the minister’s repeated attempts at clarifying his stance, which have lent credence to reports that the PML-N is a divided house at the moment. Saturday’s statement by Ahsan Iqbal and the subsequent reaction from Chaudhry Nisar has only cemented this impression further.

Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2017