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Finally, it has happened. Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan is no more with the Sharifs. There must be jubilation in the ‘larger’ anti-Nisar camp in the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and most of them believe that the political career of the erstwhile party bigwig is over.

On the other hand, his rival Ghulam Sarwar Khan from Taxila, who has given a tough time to the politician from Chakri in every election, is not ready to take him lightly in the July 25 elections.

Background interviews with a number of PML-N members and activists show that a majority of them believe that the party has permanently closed its door on Nisar which, according to them, is evident from the fact that he was not even made a member of the parliamentary board by the two Sharifs. They also believe that party’s supreme leader Nawaz Sharif and his younger brother and party president Shahbaz Sharif are now on the same page and both of them agree that Nisar has “ditched” the Sharif family at a time when they are facing a serious political crisis after last year’s judgment of the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers scam.

Shahbaz Sharif reportedly met Nisar in Islamabad last week to make a last ditch effort to convince him to formally apply for a party ticket so that he could fight his case in the party, but the latter refused to do so. The sources said it was the last opportunity which Nisar could avail, despite the past bitter happenings.

Nisar has submitted nomination papers for four different constituencies — two National Assembly and two provincial assembly seats from Rawalpindi and adjoining Taxila — announcing that he would contest the election independently.

While announcing his decision to end his 34-year-long association with the Sharifs, Nisar also objected to the decisions of the PML-N’s parliamentary committee, saying that the party had awarded most of the party tickets to “political orphans”.

The former minister had stated that he would not beg the PML-N’s parliamentary committee for a ticket. Instead, he would contest the upcoming polls as an independent candidate from NA-59, NA-63, PP-10 and PP-12, adding that 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.

Nisar warned former prime minister Nawaz Sharif not to push him or else 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.

The differences between Nisar, the then minister for interior, and Nawaz Sharif emerged when the former objected to the decision of Mr Sharif to write a letter to the chief justice of Pakistan, asking him to constitute a judicial commission on the Panama Papers leaks to prove the alleged corruption of the Sharif family in attaining the offshore companies.

Nisar later opposed Mr Sharif’s decision to travel to Lahore in the form of a rally through G.T. Road after his disqualification by the Supreme Court. The former minister was of the view that the party should not indulge in confrontational politics with the judiciary and the military establishment, the narrative which, according to him, had been suggested to Mr Sharif by those considered to be hawks — especially the two Khawajas and Pervaiz Rashid.

The sources said the PML-N was considering fielding candidates against Nisar in the electoral contest in NA-59 (Rawalpindi) and NA-63 (Taxila).

Nisar has not ruled out the possibility of joining the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), led by his old friend Imran Khan, by saying that he would make any such decision after winning the elections.

When contacted, PTI’s Ghulam Sarwar Khan, who had submitted nomination papers against Nisar in both the National Assembly seats and one provincial assembly seat, said his party would never ask him to withdraw his candidature against Nisar as he had already settled the issue with Imran Khan.

Ghulam Sarwar Khan said he had told the PTI chairman that he was ready to leave the field open for Nisar if the latter would contest the election on the PTI ticket. Otherwise, he said, he would not let the field open for his arch rival.

The former MNA from Taxila said that he would “clean bowl” Nisar in all the three constituencies.

Political observers believe that it will be difficult for a person like Nisar to sit in the provincial assembly if he loses the NA seats but manages to win the PA seats.

Talking to Dawn, Mumtaz Khan, who had applied for the PML-N ticket from NA-63 Taxila, said that he was hopeful of getting the party ticket as “luckily” he was the lone contender for it. He, however, said that so far the party had not given him a green signal.

When contacted, Senator Pervaiz Rashid said that the PML-N would field its candidates almost in every constituency across the country. He further said that only those people would get the party tickets who had appeared before the parliamentary committee of the party. He said that the party had maintained its past democratic tradition and even Shahbaz Sharif had appeared before the parliamentary committee. “No one is above the party discipline,” he stated categorically, while refusing to talk about Nisar’s future.

Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2018