News Analysis |
Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal on Tuesday dismissed the claim of his predecessor and co-party member, Chaudry Nisar Ali Khan that only four people in Pakistan knew about the immense threats to the country. He insisted that the civil and military leadership were fully aware of the situation.
The PML-N already faces a fearsome external opponent in the form of the main opposition party the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf who is rapidly catching up to the PML-N in its Punjab stronghold
He was responding to a query raised by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, last week, about the claim made by his predecessor. Chaudhry Nisar had asserted that a select group of four individuals, consisting of two armed forces personnel and two civilians including him and the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, were aware of the serious threat.
Mr. Iqbal, however, counterclaimed that not only the prime minister and the army chief but all members of the cabinet committee on national security were aware of these security threats and met on a regular basis to review matters relating to national security. He stressed there was no such forum where only four individuals were informed about a national security threat, adding that the cabinet committee on national security was the appropriate forum.
In another event relating to both PMLN Members, Chaudry Nisar had attacked statements by Foreign Minister Khwaja Asif over his interview calling to put “our house in order”. Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal endorsed the foreign minister’s viewpoint, vowing to take strict action against banned outfits that resurfaced under new names.
Nawaz’s brother Shahbaz Sharif considers it his right to take over the reins from his elder brother, in which he is supported by his son, Hamza Shahbaz
However, Chaudry Nisar through his spokesperson, contested both ministers’ statements, saying that comments on sensitive and important issues must be based on facts, and not assumptions. Yet both statements were endorsed by the current Pakistani Prime Minister and PMLN member Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.
In an interview with Geo anchorperson Saleem Safi on 9 September 2017, Chaudry Nisar said that Maryam Nawaz is the daughter of the ousted premier and has yet to prove her mettle as a politician. This statement infuriated many PML-N leaders who called it an ill-timed interview gave only days before the crucial NA-120 face-off between Kulsoom Nawaz and Yasmeen Rashid.
Read more: PML-N’s problems’ cut deeper than Nawaz
Divisions within PML-N: Deeper more than ever before
To many observers, this is a sign of worsening intra-party 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.
Dar’s group, meanwhile, enjoyed the favor of both the Sharif brothers and includes State Minister for Telecommunication Anusha Rehman and Premier Nawaz’s daughter Maryam Nawaz
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 aegis of Nawaz Sharif. Major groups in the ruling party are the Maryam Nawaz group, Khwaja Asif group, Shahbaz Sharif group and Chaudary Nisar group.
Two major conflicts can be summarized within these groups. The first is a struggle between the Chaudry Nisar and “Lahori” group. The latter consisting of Ishaq Dar, Khawaja Asif, Pervez Rashid, Ahsan Iqbal and Ayaz Sadiq rose to prominence after the May 2013 elections that saw the loosening of Chaudry Nisar’s grip over Nawaz Sharif. This became apparent when Nisar questioned the nomination of Sardar Ayaz Sadiq for the office of National Assembly Speaker.
The PML-N is not a monolith but a collection of groups under the aegis of Nawaz Sharif. Major groups in the ruling party are the Maryam Nawaz group, Khwaja Asif group, Shahbaz Sharif group and Chaudary Nisar group
In 2014, Party sources revealed a three-way struggle between Chaudry Nisar, Khwaja Asif, and Ishaq Dar. Nisar had the ‘strongest’ group due to his closeness with Shahbaz Sharif. On the other hand, Khawaja Asif’s group, which included Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique, is known to be under Prime Minister Nawaz’s wing. Dar’s group, meanwhile, enjoyed the favor of both the Sharif brothers and includes State Minister for Telecommunication Anusha Rehman and Premier Nawaz’s daughter Maryam Nawaz.
Although both Nisar and Khawaja Asif strongly opposed each other’s proposals whenever they were presented before the party leadership, they were both united in their opposition towards Dar, who they think abused the extra powers he had been given by the prime minister.
More schisms emerged within the party after the question of transfer of power to the second generation arose. Nawaz’s brother Shahbaz Sharif considers it his right to take over the reins from his elder brother, in which he is supported by his son, Hamza Shahbaz and Punjab’s law minister, Rana Sanaullah. However, he faces opposition in this from his niece and Nawaz’s daughter Maryam Nawaz who is trying to succeed her father – and often considered, “Heir Apparent” ..
Chaudry Nisar through his spokesperson, contested both ministers’ statements, saying that comments on sensitive and important issues must be based on facts, and not assumptions
This schism became apparent during the recent Sunday by-election of NA-120 in Lahore in which her mother won by an unremarkable margin. Maryam was largely alone in campaigning for her mother and the absence of both her uncle and cousin was noticeable.
Now it is being reported that the Shahbaz Sharif group will try to undermine Maryam Nawaz by exploiting the lackluster performance in the NA-120 election which has been a PML-N stronghold since the 1980’s. These intraparty rivalries existent for a long time have become more and more apparent with passing time and have become an internal mortal threat of the party.
The PML-N already faces a fearsome external opponent in the form of the main opposition party the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf that is rapidly catching onto the PML-N in its Punjab stronghold. It can be said that the future appears to portend bleak scenario for the PML-N which seems to be on the way to unraveling due to internal factors.