LAHORE: Some PML-N politicians close to ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Sunday took exception to Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s recent TV interview and questioned its timing, making it clear that Mr Sharif cannot be `intimidated’ and he would continue to strive for the sanctity of the ballot.

Although some senior PML-N leaders told Dawn that they would speak their heart out over the issue at an appropriate time, a few of them aired their sentiments.

In his characteristic style, Minister of State for Interior Talal Chaudhry after attending a meeting chaired by Maryam Nawaz in Model Town in connection with the by-poll in NA-120, commented: “No one should warn Nawaz Sharif of serious consequences for fighting for the rights of the people. Nawaz Sharif will fight the war for the people of Pakistan and he cannot be intimidated.”

“Indecent haste was shown in sending Nawaz Sharif home and now there seems to be an urgency to punish him (in NAB references),” said Talal who is said to be the pick of Maryam Nawaz in Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s cabinet. He is quite vocal against the judiciary and establishment following the Panama Papers case verdict.

He further said the ousted premier did not want the government without power. “There are many who suggest him (Nawaz) to enjoy the power and do not talk about sanctity of the ballot. It is not difficult for Nawaz Sharif to stay in or return to the power corridors but he does not want to rule without power and respect,” he said.

The state minister demanded the court should treat Nawaz Sharif in a just and fair manner. “The former premier must get answers to those questions which he raised in his review petition against his disqualification,” he said.

“Imran Khan is using the name of the apex court for seeking votes in the NA-120 bye-election as he wants to take the judges to the blind alley,” he said.

National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq parried a question on Chaudhry Nisar’s comments about Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz when he interacted with media persons during a visit to his constituency in Samanabad.

A senior PML-N leader told Dawn on the request of anonymity that the timing of Mr Nisar’s interview was not right. “NA-120 election is just a week away and his (Nisar)’s comment about Maryam Bibi that she should not be compared with Benazir Bhutto as she was a great political leader could be damaging as she (Maryam) is campaigning for her mother,” he said.

He said Mr Sharif and Ms Maryam would not be happy with Chaudhry Nisar for his interview critical of them providing an opportunity to the opposition to further target them.

On the other hand, a leader who is close Chaudhry Nisar said the former interior minister had said nothing against the Sharif family rather he gave a “perfect advice.” “Mr Nisar basically talked about peaceful co-existence among the institutions.”

Mr Nisar had spoken about mishandling of Panama Papers case, the fact that Mr Sharif kept him out of consultative process, PML-N’s confrontation with the judiciary and army and other governance matters. “Better coordination with both the judiciary and military is the only option in the current situation when conspiracies are being hatched against the country,” the former interior minister said.

Chaudhry Nisar further said he had never been a candidate for prime minister office. “I am not fit for that slot despite having the offer,” he said and added he was consulted in the process of making Mr Abbasi premier.

He said he could go along with Nawaz Sharif despite differences. He also made it clear that he was ready to accept Shahbaz Sharif as the president of the party. “I am also neither a candidate for the PML-N president.” He said he would neither leave the party nor would he make any group as he always remain loyal to the party.

Nisar said he was also with Mr Sharif for restoration of the sanctity of the ballot but he was against the confrontation with the state institutions. “First we have to respect the ballot. What happened in Turkey is before everyone where people thronged the roads to foil a coup bid. We need to improve governance,” he said.

Commenting on Maryam Nawaz’s political career, Nisar said: “She is a child. She has not yet stepped into politics so how can she be accepted as leader (in the party),” he said and rejected her comparison with the slain premier Benazir Bhutto who, he said, had earned her place in the PPP by her long political struggle.

Mr Nisar also talked about the mindset of bringing “own army chief”. “I told the party leadership that even if you make my own brother (from army) chief, he will be loyal to the institution (and not to an individual) at the end of the day.”

The former interior minister further said at times he also played a role of a foreign minister by responding to the enemies of the country. He criticised the Bush administration for releasing funds for Pakistan when the Taliban were freely roaming around here. “But now the US administration is blaming Pakistan when it is doing enough to weed out terrorism from the country.”

On Foreign Minister Khwaja Asif’s remarks that Pakistan needed to put its house in order first, Chaudhry Nisar said after such a statement, “Pakistan does not need enemies”.

Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2017

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