ISLAMABAD: Estranged Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) stalwart Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan is set to further embarrass his party leaders at a press conference today (Sunday), where he is expected to spill the beans on critical national issues and matters associated with his role as the country’s interior minister.

His spokesperson’s announcement that the former interior minister would address a presser at Islamabad’s Punjab House on Sunday came the same day newspapers reported a spat between former information minister Pervaiz Rashid and the erstwhile senior minister.

Mr Rashid had indirectly criticised Chaudhry Nisar for not supporting the party during the recent Panamagate crisis, while the latter hit back with the assertion that “some people” wanted to blame their mistakes and blunders “on the ministry of interior and the establishment”. The announcement also came hours after Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif reportedly asked party leaders to refrain from attacking state institutions in their speeches.

Though the spokesperson did not specify what issues the former minister would speak on, political observers and PML-N leaders believe that the politician from Chakri will respond to the criticism from Pervaiz Rashid.

Addressing a news conference days before the announcement of the Panama Papers verdict, the former minister had confirmed, for the first time, reports about an internal rift within the party, claiming he had been excluded from the consultative process on Panamagate.

In a TV interview on Friday, the former information minister had said that the interior ministry, headed by Chaudhry Nisar, had made certain decisions that went against the PML-N and its government.

Mercurial ex-minister incensed by former cabinet colleague’s remarks

Mr Rashid, who was sacked in the wake of the controversy surrounding a Dawn story about a high-level security meeting held last year, had complained that “other institutions” didn’t help the PML-N in stopping former dictator retired Gen Pervez Musharraf from leaving the country.

But within no time, Chaudhry Nisar responded through his spokesperson, saying that Mr Rashid should have explained what kind of help he expected from the interior ministry to “cover up their deeds”.

Referring to the report of an inquiry committee in the news leak controversy, the statement said that only one member of the six-man committee was from the interior ministry, adding that the remaining members were “subordinates” of either federal or provincial departments.

Nisar’s remarks — advising Mr Rashid to ask “his government” to release the inquiry report that can exonerate him — clearly show that the former minister does not want to associate himself with the government of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

The statements also lend credence to reports that Chaudhry Nisar had differed with the government’s strategy with regards to Gen Musharraf’s trial and the news leak controversy.

The former minister has publicly opposed the party’s strategy in the Panama Papers issue, and became upset when his advice to not censure the Supreme Court-appointed Joint Investigation Team (JIT) and the other institutions was ignored by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

However, party sources said the leadership was unhappy with Chaudhry Nisar for his inaction as the interior minister — first during the formation of the inquiry committee on the news leaks issue, then with the constitution of the JIT, which was headed by a senior official of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), which reports directly to the interior ministry.

In private, Chaudhry Nisar has reportedly said that he was blamed for not helping the government with both issues, even though both bodies contained representatives of institutions that fell under the control of other ministries.

In background discussions, senior PML-N leaders revealed that differences between Chaudhry Nisar and the party’s leadership first emerged in July 2014, when Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan announced plans to stage a sit-in against alleged rigging in the 2013 general elections.

Sources said an anti-Nisar group within the party believed that he had either mishandled the sit-in, or had covertly supported the marchers by allowing them to enter the high-security Red Zone, where protesters remained camped out for 126 days.

Chaudhry Nisar was also opposed to Mr Sharif’s plan to travel to Lahore via GT Road. He did not welcome Mr Sharif’s rally when it passed through his constituency. Referring to the media reports about his absence from the Sharif’s rally, Chaudhry Nisar had expressed annoyance, saying as to why only he was being discussed when 90 per cent of the PML-N’s senior leadership had skipped the rally.

Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2017

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