RAWALPINDI: Following an extended war of words with the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) top command, disgruntled party stalwart and former federal interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Monday announced his decision to part with the Sharifs, and to contest the elections as an independent candidate from four national and provincial assemblies’ seats in Rawalpindi.

“The PML-N’s parliamentary committee... has awarded most of the party tickets to political orphans... that is why I am parting my ways from the PML-N and will contest the elections as an independent candidate,” he announced at a corner meeting.

The former minister said he would not beg the PML-N’s parliamentary committee for a ticket. Instead, he will contest the upcoming polls as an independent candidate from NA-59, NA-63, PP-10 and PP-12. Mr Khan said the PML-N had become a “family party”, which had made it impossible for him to stay in it even though he had never really wanted to quit it. “Nawaz Sharif, who once opposed PPP’s slain chairperson Benazir Bhutto by saying that women should not govern the country, has now foisted his daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif on the party,” he complained.

Mr Khan warned former prime minister Nawaz Sharif not to push him or else, he warned, he would spill the beans on him. “I am not responding to what the Sharifs have been saying because of my 34-year-long association with the party,” he added. He regretted, however, that it had become hard for him to remain a member of the party.

Ex-minister to fight polls as independent candidate

When asked if he would join the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), Mr Khan replied that it was better for him to concentrate on the elections for now, as he could take a decision to join any party after winning as an independent candidate.

Sources shared that the PML-N’s central leaders, too, had shown reluctance to award a ticket to Mr Khan, once a close aide of the Sharif brothers. The party is considering fielding Sardar Mumtaz and Engineer Qamarul Islam in the electoral contest against Mr Khan in NA-59 (Rawalpindi) and NA-63 (Taxila). The former minister will also be contesting against PTI’s Ghulam Sarwar Khan, who may give him a tough time.

The 64-year-old politician from Chakri began his career in the 1980s after becoming Rawalpindi district council chairman. He entered national politics in 1985 as a member of the National Assembly.

He contested the 1988 elections on a ticket of the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) and became a close aide of Nawaz Sharif. In 1990, he became an MNA for the third time. After the 1993 elections, he became an MNA but sat on the opposition benches led by then opposition leader Nawaz Sharif.

In 1997, Mr Khan became minister for petroleum and national resources for the second time. It was during this time that he became known as the most powerful man in the party after the elder Sharif, who was known to take important decisions after consulting Mr Khan. Even retired General Pervez Musharraf had been reportedly made chief of the army staff on Mr Khan’s recommendation.

After Mr Musharraf’s military coup of 1999, Mr Khan was placed under house arrest and later released, but he never quit the party. In the 2002 elections, he contested elections on a PML-N ticket and became an MNA.

After the 2008 elections, which he, once again, contested on a PML-N ticket, he served in ex-premier Yousuf Raza Gillani’s cabinet for a few months as a part of the PML-N and PPP coalition. He later became leader of the opposition in the National Assembly and played an active role. In the 2013 elections, Mr Khan contested a National Assembly seat on a PML-N ticket and a Provincial Assembly seat as an independent. He won both and became an interior minister in the Nawaz-led government for four years.

Published in Dawn, June 12th, 2018