CHAUDHRY Nisar Ali Khan
CHAUDHRY Nisar Ali Khan

LONDON: Former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has arrived in the United Kingdom reportedly for a two-week visit that includes medical check-ups, but his arrival here at a time when both Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif are here has sparked speculations that he will approach the party’s supreme leader for key meetings.

Ahead of his visit, local media reports suggested the former PML-N stalwart would hold important meetings with the Sharif brothers and discuss the political situation back home. There were even reports that former finance minister Ishaq Dar is mediating a so-called patch up between the two sides.

However, sources said a patch-up is highly unlikely, as the party has no intention of taking him back. A source added: “It is really an uphill task and I don’t see it happening anytime in the near future.”

Even though Nisar has a long association with Mr Dar and Shahbaz Sharif and has not severed ties with some PML-N members since his departure from the party, the sources said a single visit to London would not repair the damage that was caused when Nisar publicly spoke against the elder Sharif and Maryam Nawaz. Also, it is wrong to speculate that Nisar is in London with a message to rejoin the party as he has not openly expressed any such wish, the source added.

Chaudhry Nisar has stayed out of media spotlight since he parted ways with the PML-N in 2018 after a 34-year association. His departure from the party came after he publicly spoke of his differences with the Sharif brothers and expressed his displeasure over their decisions. His silence has been construed by many as a rethink on his decision to leave the party. He was last seen publicly during the funeral of the late Kulsoom Nawaz in Lahore.

No indication the estranged PML-N leader will meet Nawaz

Although several people expect the former PML-N leader to pay Nawaz a visit to inquire after his health, the sources said the former prime minister has not indicated that he is ready to receive him. And Mr Shahbaz too will not engage in any political conversation with him till his elder brother changes his mind.

Although the possibility of an informal meeting between Mr Dar, Mr Shahbaz and Mr Nisar has not been ruled out, any major party decision regarding the former minister will be taken by Mr Nawaz.

The rift between the Sharifs and Mr Nisar widened significantly when the latter in 2018 said he would not beg the PML-N’s parliamentary committee for an election ticket. He had also criticised the PML-N for having become a “family party”, which he said 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 had complained.

The former interior minister at the time had also warned Mr Nawaz against pushing 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.

Mr Nisar contested the 2018 elections as an independent candidate and secured just one seat in the Punjab Assembly. However, he did not take oath when the assembly convened for oath-taking.

At the time, he denied rumours about joining the PTI or the ‘Jeep Group’ of independent candidates.

He arrived at Heathrow Airport on Tuesday and responded to reporters’ questions about rumours of a change in the provincial and federal governments by saying the topic was “irrelevant”. “It is irrelevant who is becoming the PM or CM. The most important issue is the country’s political and financial stability. I don’t see any solution anywhere in sight. This economic situation is unprecedented in our country’s history.”

Amidst the rumours relating to Mr Nisar’s visit here, social media was abuzz about a video clip that purported to show the army chief and former director general of the ISPR Asif Ghafoor in London. Military sources dubbed the clip “fake news” and said there was no truth to such reports.

Before things went sour, Mr Nisar enjoyed close ties with the Sharifs, and was one of Mr Nawaz’s top aides during his three tenures as premier.

The 64-year-old politician from Chakri drew close to Mr Nawaz when he contested the 1988 elections on a ticket of the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad. After the 1993 elections, he became an MNA but sat on the opposition benches led by then opposition leader Nawaz Sharif.

In 1997, he became a minister for petroleum and national resources for the second time. At the time, he was said to be the most powerful man in the party after the elder Sharif, who was known to take important decisions after consulting him.

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

In the 2013 elections, he contested a National Assembly seat on a PML-N ticket and a provincial assembly seat as an independent candidate. He won both and became an interior minister in the Nawaz-led government.

Published in Dawn, February 13th, 2020