ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, whose differences with the party leadership have been the subject of media speculation, said on Thursday he would resign his parliament membership and cabinet portfolio and quit politics once the Supreme Court ruled on the Panamagate, whatever the verdict.
The announcement didn’t come as a surprise as a day earlier the interior minister went public with his ‘grievances’ against the leadership of his party, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).
“The day Supreme Court decides [the Panamagate case] – whether it is in favour of Nawaz Sharif or against him – I have decided I will quit my ministry and I will also quit the National Assembly,” Nisar told a news conference which, in his words, was the ‘most difficult’ news conference of his political career. “I’m done with politics. I’ll never contest elections in my life.”
In his nearly 45-minute long news conference, Nisar talked about his 33-year association with the party, conspiracies within the PML-N, and his disillusionment with politics.
Nisar said he wanted to take the ‘extreme step’ of stepping down as interior minister and member of the National Assembly “until this (Thursday) morning”. However, he deferred the decision “under pressure from [some] friends”.
Earlier, Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif met Nisar in the federal capital in a last-ditch effort to win him back – but to no avail. It was the second meeting between the two in less than 24 hours. Shehbaz was reportedly accompanied by other PML-N leaders, including Ishaq Dar, Khawaja Saad Rafique and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.
“I was requested by senior leaders to cancel this news conference, but I told them I’ve to speak to the media,” said the minister.
Nisar, known as a hard-core ideologue within the party, quashed the impression that he might join some other political party, saying he could not even think of switching loyalties. “I have a 33-year-long association with the party and cannot imagine of ditching it at this critical juncture.”
He said if the court ruled against Sharif then he must not be considered for any slot. “Those who are desperately making efforts for positions should be obliged.” Nisar said he was proud to learn that even political rivals were convinced that he would never leave the PML-N.
Nisar did not target the prime minister but criticised some of the party leaders who have been speaking against him [Nisar] in the presence of Sharif with an objective to create differences. “Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is a decent and amiable person and has worked hard to establish the party.”
However, the minister complained that he was kept out of crucial consultations on the Panamagate case, though he had been part of every meeting of the party during the last 33 years.
“I was suddenly excluded from the PML-N meetings…I was not invited to senior consultative meetings for the past month and a half,” he said, describing it as ‘humiliating’ for him.
During that period, Nisar said he was invited to just three meetings — national security, cabinet and parliamentary committee meetings.
“Save for the parliamentary committee meeting, I attended [all] these meetings,” he said, adding, “I have stopped attending parliamentary committee meeting since long.”
“Some people said I had missed the train. The fact is I haven’t missed any train. I don’t just get on any train,” he said and added: “I’ve been on this train since the very beginning.”
The interior minister he was a victim of ‘internal intrigues’. “Conspirators are found in every political party; however, it is the responsibility of the party leadership to distinguish between a loyalist and a conspirator.”
He said during a cabinet meeting he asked the premier why conspiracies were being hatched against him when he was not registering a complaint against any other cabinet colleague.
Without mentioning any name Nisar said there was a person who in addition to involved financial irregularities also had moral issues.
He concluded with some sound parting advice to the prime minister, whom he praised throughout as a ‘great and humble leader’.
“I want to tell Nawaz Sharif — if I was with you, I would tell you that if you are absolved in the Supreme Court: keep your feet on the ground. There will be those who will ask for heads to roll: I beseech you, you are a humble man, do not fall for this.
“I said this in the party meeting, and I’ll say it again: the Supreme Court’s decision should be accepted at all costs. If the apex court’s decision is not respected, it will be as if Pakistan is ruled by the law of the jungle,” the minister said.
The minister said he would continue to stress on developing harmony among state institutions. “Pakistan is facing a dangerous phase and there is only one way to stand against it: to get united.”
“Mian Sahab don’t worry about me. As a backbencher I would continue to support you,” he stated.
Speaking on civil-military relations, Nisar said he was proud of his family’s army background that spans over four generations but added that he “never compromised on civilian supremacy”.
“Ask any general if I’ve ever sought to sacrifice civilian rule for my personal political gains,” he said, in apparent reference to speculations and rumours that Nisar has always been ‘the army’s man’.
“I do whatever it takes to maintain civil-military relations for the sake of supremacy of civilian rule,”” he said, recounting multiple instances where he had run-ins with serving generals over various matters.
“Ask any military or intelligence leader if I’ve ever attempted to undermine the government for political gain.”
He said during the Dawn Leaks issue, he tried to handle the situation.
Nisar said he had been playing the role of devil’s advocate. “I went to Mian Sahib three months ago and I told him that I have always given you the bad news. I have played the devil’s advocate. He said ‘I like this in you and you should continue speaking the truth’.”
He said he had been playing the role of a whisper which was played in the Roman’s Empire by 14 or 15 years old boys who used to stand on both sides of the emperor and continued to remind him that ‘Caesar you’re a human, you’re human.’
According to Nisar, he might have many flaws but he was not a hypocrite.