LAHORE: Former interior minister and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) disgruntled leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan called on the party president Shahbaz Sharif here on Monday.

The meeting was significant in the backdrop of recent bickering between Nisar and ousted premier Nawaz Sharif’s close aide Senator Pervaiz Rashid who declared that in the upcoming elections the former (Nisar) would not be awarded party ticket.

A PML-N insider told Dawn that Chaudhry Nisar and Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had a discussion for more than three hours on the party matters and the former’s future role in the party.

“They discussed the challenges the PML-N was facing in the background of its tiff with the establishment and the judiciary. (And) What kind of strategy the PML-N should adopt to keep the party united after the completion of its (government’s) tenure on May 31, and for repairing of its relations with the establishment,” he said.

Meeting focuses on ex-minister’s future role in PML-N

The insider further said the two leaders also discussed the ‘rift’ between Nisar and Nawaz over the former’s advice against taking on the judiciary and the establishment and a subsequent demand from the latter’s camp to expel him (Nisar) from the PML-N for going against the ‘party interests’.

“Shahbaz will have to go an extra mile to arrange a meeting between Nisar and Nawaz if he really wants to keep the former interior minister in the PML-N fold because if the two old friends are not reconciled, Nisar has no future in the party. Although Shahbaz is the party’s president, he cannot take a unilateral decision (in a matter) like awarding ticket to Nisar in the upcoming election. Without a nod from his elder brother who is the supreme leader of the PML-N, Shahbaz cannot take any major party decision on his own,” a PML-N leader from Punjab remarked.

Talking to Dawn, he said that for Shahbaz it would not be easy to settle the issue. Nisar had been close to Shahbaz since long as in the past the duo had been meeting the army chief to discuss important matters, he added.

“Shahbaz faces the daunting task of persuading his elder brother to have a one-on-one sitting with Nisar to iron out their differences. If he does not succeed, I am afraid Nisar will have to look for other political options,” he says.

Mr Nisar had time and again made it clear that he would not work under the leadership of Maryam Nawaz, daughter of Nawaz Sharif. In his recent remarks, he said he would continue his association with PML-N only if the party was not “reduced to a housemaid,” an apparent reference to likely takeover of the party by Maryam.

There is a common perception in the party that whenever Mr Nisar passes any comment about Ms Maryam, especially related to leading the party, he gets a sharp retort from someone associated to the Nawaz camp.

“In such a scenario, it appears difficult that Shahbaz will be able to mend Nisar’s ties with Nawaz and Maryam because the differences (between them) apparently have reached the point of no return,” he said.

A PML-N leader belonging to Shahbaz camp said: “No one can be ousted from the party merely over difference of opinion. Mr Shahbaz is the PML-N’s president and any decision about Mr Nisar’s future in the party will be taken by him (Shahbaz),” he said.

Published in Dawn, April 3rd, 2018

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