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Faizabad crackdown casues divisions in PML-N

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News Analysis |

The recently concluded Faizabad crisis has unleashed a battle of words among many PML-N members including ministers. The recent crisis seems to have served as a catalyst for more divisions in the embattled governing party.

The most significant was the battle between the Interior Minsiter Ahsan Iqbal and his predecessor Chaudry Nisar Ali Khan.  Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) lawmaker Chaudhry Nisar has said that not a single person was injured outside his residence in Rawalpindi, let alone any deaths. Nisar’s statement came in reaction to what Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal said on the Geo News programme ‘Jirgah’ on Sunday.

The Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasulallah seems to have arisen the victor in the current tussle with the government.

Commenting on Saturday’s turmoil in Islamabad, Iqbal had said the reported casualties during the Faizabad operation took place outside Nisar’s residence in the vicinity, however, it is yet to be known as to who had opened the fire.

While criticizing the current interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar said that Ahsan Iqbal should refrain from giving such irrelevant statements to hide his incompetence. Nisar said that those who claimed to end the sit-in in three hours are now leveling the burden of the operation on the court. He termed it ‘unfortunate’ that the interior minister of the country is so ignorant and irresponsible.

Read more: Zahid Hamid finally resigns after pressure from protestors

However, Ahsan Iqbal has refused to provide a response over Nisar’s statements by saying that the former interior minister is senior to him therefore he will not comment on the issue. Both leaders have been known to be embroiled in a mini cold war within the party. Chaudry Nisar is said to be in a tug of war with the “Lahori” group within the PML (N). This group consists of Ishaq Dar, Khawaja Asif, Pervez Rashid, Ahsan Iqbal and Ayaz Sadiq. This rose to prominence after the May 2013 elections that saw the loosening of Chaudry Nisar’s grip over Nawaz Sharif.

The most significant was the battle between the Interior Minsiter Ahsan Iqbal and his predecessor Chaudry Nisar Ali Khan. 

Chaudhry Nisar has been highly vocal in the recent months over the conduct of PML (N). His most recent criticism was lambasting the party as being controlled by self-interests soon after a meeting of PML (N) bigwigs in London. His most dangerous diatribes were attacking Maryam Nawaz, the heir apparent of Nawaz Sharif as well as dueling with interior minister Ahsan Iqbal.

However, there were other PML-N leaders who were voicing their apprehensions. Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz MPA from Sargodha Sahibzada Ghulam Nizamuddin Sialwi has resigned in the wake of a crackdown against protesters staging a sit-in at Faizabad interchange. Sialwi has asked all his followers to relinquish PML-N membership.

Read more: Is Faizabad crisis turning into Red Mosque 2.0?

Another PML-N lawmaker Sheikh Waqas Akram has demanded the government to release arrested workers with immediate effect. He has also threatened to relinquish the NA’s seat and demanded State Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Anusha Rehman to resign.

Chaudhry Nisar said that Ahsan Iqbal should refrain from giving such irrelevant statements to hide his incompetence.

On 20 November 2017, PML-N MPA Ilyas Chinioti blasted his own leader Nawaz Sharif in a speech. Speaking at the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, Ilyas Chinioti said that while Nawaz Sharif was perhaps no more guilty than any other politician, it was his interference in the clause of the Finality Of Prophethood that caused him to be humiliated in front of the world. He said that there had been some great mistake or blunder at Nawaz’s hands with regards to the Finality of Prophethood which is why he is being disgraced in such a manner.

The Faizabad crackdown seems to have exacerbated existing tensions within the ruling party. These tensions surfaced for the first time with the Panama case that culminated in the dismissal of the PML-N figurehead Nawaz Sharif. During that time, Chaudry Nisar– a main figure in the intraparty schism almost resigned from politics. Ahsan Iqbal and Chaudry Nisar were already at loggerheads in a verbal spate in July 2017 when Mr. Iqbal took jibes at Nisar’s disagreements with Nawaz Sharif.

Read more: Dharna Crisis: Mystery surrounds government actions

Many contend that the Panama crisis was a catalyst and not an origin of these divisions. It can be asserted that such deepening schisms are due to the structure of the party itself. The PML-N is not a monolith but a collection of groups under the protection of Nawaz Sharif. Major groups in the ruling party are the Maryam Nawaz group, Khwaja Asif group, Shehbaz Sharif group and Chaudary Nisar group.

Chaudhry Nisar has been highly vocal in the recent months over the conduct of PML (N).

Then there is the lower tier of PML-N leaders who are usually opportunist turncoats or “lotas” in the local lexicon. Most of these join the party which they believe is the strongest. They are also heedful of the local politics of their constituency. For example, Sheikh Waqas Akram faces off the religiopolitical hardcore Deobandi Sunni Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) in his constituency. If he appears lax on the issue his largely religious constituents could walk towards the ASWJ.

The Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasulallah seems to have arisen the victor in the current tussle with the government. It not only staved off the fully frontal assault of the police and FC in Rawalpindi but in the public eye has completed its demands by forcing the resignation of the Law Minister. Its good performance in the NA-4 and NA-120 by elections may have made it a viable option for many a “lota”.


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