LAHORE / LONDON / KARACHI: After weeks of ‘will he, won’t he’ speculation, former prime minister and senior PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi came clean on his ‘reservations’ with continuing as the senior vice president (SVP) of the party following the appointment of Maryam Nawaz Sharif on the same designation.

Speaking to Dawn on Wednesday, Mr Abbasi said he had spent the day clarifying on various outlets that he has not left the party, but had merely stepped down from the SVP post, which he said he was handed by Nawaz Sharif in 2019 “without consultation”.

When pressed to clarify his reservations, he said: “Now, if Maryam makes a decision and I say it’s not right, there will be heartburn on all sides — there are no grievances but it is not good for me or for her [if I] continue in this role.”

“Everything is the same, only I don’t have a position anymore,” he said.

Abbasi announces decision to step down from SVP post ‘to give Maryam more space’; Miftah ‘expected’ to follow suit

The distance between Mr Abbasi and his fellow party leaders had been an open secret for several months now.

Later, in an interview with Samaa TV’s Nadeem Malik on Wednesday night, Mr Abbasi confirmed that he had sent his resignation to PM Shehbaz Sharif when Ms Sharif was appointed, adding that he had expected the party to announce it.

The development was then confirmed by former Sindh governor and PML-N spokesperson Muhammad Zubair after he met with Ms Sharif in Model Town.

“He enjoys a big stature (sic) in the party and such an office does not matter to him. The party needs his experience,” Mr Zubair said.

When asked the reason behind this decision, he said he did not want to discuss the ‘party’s dirty laundry’ in public.

However, a party insider confided that supreme leader Nawaz Sharif had directed his daughter to contact Mr Abbasi and allay his concerns.

In the interview on Samaa TV, Mr Abbasi said the “basic principle” behind his move was that Ms Sharif should be provided with an “open field” as she assumed the new responsibilities.

Giving the example of former premier Benazir Bhutto, he said that her first stint in power suffered due to conflicts with her father’s contemporaries.

Mr Abbasi said that during Benazir’s second term, there were “newer people” around her, which allowed her to move forward.

Mr Abbasi further said that he had not discussed the matter with PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and had sent his resignation to PM Shehbaz, the party’s president. “Resignations are a normal matter so I don’t give them much importance.”

Later, talking to Dawn, he said: “I can leave politics, but not the party”.

In the past weeks, Mr Abbasi has also been holding seminars and press conferences along with other like-minded leaders from across the political arena — including former finance minister Miftah Ismail, former senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar and former Balochistan chief minister Aslam Raisani — in a campaign they’ve termed “Reimagining Pakistan”.

What of Miftah?

In the wake of Mr Abbasi’s anno­uncement, all eyes are now on his friend and confidant, the erstwhile finance minister Mr Ismail, who still holds a key organisational position within the party’s Sindh chapter.

Although Mr Ismail has categorically denied any intention to leave the post, party rankers in the province are convinced that it will only be a matter of days before he too follows suit and steps aside from party responsibilities.

“This is [Mr Abbasi’s] own decision and I [have made] mine to be a part of the party,” he said in a brief reply to Dawn’s query about his plans moving forward.

The Abbasi-Ismail nexus, their aides say, is reflected in their fresh initiative to hold a series of nationwide seminars on the challenges being faced by the country, the next of which is scheduled to be held in Karachi on Feb 18.

Published in Dawn, February 2nd, 2023

Opinion

Rule by law

Rule by law

‘The rule of law’ is being weaponised, taking on whatever meaning that fits the political objectives of those invoking it.

Editorial

Isfahan strikes
Updated 20 Apr, 2024

Isfahan strikes

True de-escalation means Israel must start behaving like a normal state, not a rogue nation that threatens the entire region.
President’s speech
20 Apr, 2024

President’s speech

PRESIDENT Asif Ali Zardari seems to have managed to hit all the right notes in his address to the joint sitting of...
Karachi terror
20 Apr, 2024

Karachi terror

IS urban terrorism returning to Karachi? Yesterday’s deplorable suicide bombing attack on a van carrying five...
X post facto
Updated 19 Apr, 2024

X post facto

Our decision-makers should realise the harm they are causing.
Insufficient inquiry
19 Apr, 2024

Insufficient inquiry

UNLESS the state is honest about the mistakes its functionaries have made, we will be doomed to repeat our follies....
Melting glaciers
19 Apr, 2024

Melting glaciers

AFTER several rain-related deaths in KP in recent days, the Provincial Disaster Management Authority has sprung into...