Former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar in a press conference on Sunday dismissed rumours that he had left politics, clarifying that he had declined to be part of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi's cabinet over a "difference of opinion."
Nisar, speaking about his earlier announcement of departing from the cabinet, said that he had stuck by his decision.
"I'm grateful to Nawaz Sharif and PM Abbasi for trying to convince me, but I feel I have a difference of opinion. Tell me, isn't it honourable that a person disassociates himself over a difference of opinion? In Pakistan's history, how many people have resigned on a point of principle?"
He did not specify who he had differences with.
"You don't distance yourself from a ministry for no reason," he said, adding, "There is always a reason, but I cannot reveal it at this time, because times are not normal right now ─ the party is in difficulty, the leadership is in difficulty."
"I don't think the time is right for me to discuss the reasons behind my resignation," he asserted.
He added that he would, however, not be leaving politics. "I speak in party meetings [...] there are issues within the party; those who leak what I've said in meetings are dishonest, in my opinion," he said, urging the media to verify all statements attributed to Nisar.
"I haven't leaked anything that I've said in the meetings," he claimed, adding that he was someone who had "spent his entire life in one party [...] and never even thought of the opportunities that came my way".
"I said earlier that I don't wish for any position in the government," he stressed. "I even resigned from the Interior Ministry."
Nisar's track record at the ministry
Nisar, during his press conference today, also listed the accomplishments of the Interior Ministry over the last four years under his leadership.
"People who have been criticising the Interior Ministry do not appear to be aware that it does not have executive powers," Nisar said, claiming that he had tolerated unfair allegations with patience.
"Many people own good decisions, but few take responsibility when something goes wrong."
"Publicly we [the government] must stand united," he urged. "As a nation, we have a very short memory, so I will be recalling a few things to refresh people's memory."
"The only time I hit back at criticism was when one party blamed the Interior Ministry for the blast at the Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine," he said.
"I went to the prime minister in 2013 and suggested that we hold a dialogue with the militants. Today, everyone applauds the army's role. In the All-Parties Conference, in Prime Minister House ─ everyone agreed on the dialogue process. We continued for eight months, but it did not succeed," he said. "There was a double-game on the other side."
"After the 2014 airport attack, the decision to start a military operation was made. The dialogue process, despite some people's reservations, was mutual. The military operation, despite reservations of some [religious parties], was mutual as well. Today, Pakistan is among those countries where terrorism has decreased," he said.
"There is no terrorist network in Pakistan today," he claimed, adding that there are terrorist networks and training camps "across the border [...] that target weak areas in Pakistan".
"There has been a huge improvement in law and order in the country," he claimed. "The data network of the country had been compromised," he said, adding that under his orders, 32,000 unofficial passports were confiscated and 100 million SIMS were deactivated.
The Pak-Afghan border, which a great deal of people crossed illegally, "has now been completely secured so no one can cross it without legal documentation."
He added that 2,500 kilometres were still vulnerable, but "with the army's support, we are working to secure it".
"We are spending billions to secure the shared borders with Iran and Afghanistan because there is infiltration from other countries."
The process of issuing visas had been "streamlined" to include several security clearances.
He said the ministry took a number of measures "to streamline the national security measures of this country".
"I have tried my best in these past 4.5 years to improve the security of this country."
"I always received cooperation from Rawalpindi," he said, referring to the General Headquarters. "And I don't remember any issues as far as intelligence-sharing is concerned [with intelligence agencies]."
"There has never been any problem with opposition party-led governance in Karachi and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa," he said.
"Today Karachi is not hostage to the madness of one man," he said, referring to MQM founder Altaf Hussain.
The sacrifices of the police are undermined, he said, calling their struggled against terrorism "historical".
"Provincial police are undertrained and under-equipped, but they still fought valiantly against terrorism."
"I have no issues with the free press. I have issues with a section of the media. I'm speaking about the written media. If it [the news] is about my ministry or my activities, it is my right to respond," he said.
Infighting among PML-N leaders
The former interior minister’s announcement that he would hold a press conference on Sunday came the same day newspapers reported a spat between former information minister Pervaiz Rashid and Nisar.
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 had reportedly asked party leaders to refrain from attacking state institutions in their speeches.
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.
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 had responded through his spokesperson, saying that Rashid should have explained what kind of help he expected from the interior ministry to “cover up their deeds”.
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.
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.
Chaudhry Nisar was also opposed to Sharif’s plan to travel to Lahore via GT Road. He did not welcome 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.