What is Chaudhry Nisar angling for?


—File photo


 When former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan publicly expressed his annoyance over being excluded from his party’s important meetings in the wake of the Panama Papers case against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, and also offered his advice on how Sharif should or shouldn’t react to the impending Supreme Court verdict, that perhaps was understandable.

Also, he may have had reason to be displeased over Nawaz Sharif bypassing him to appoint a junior party colleague as prime minister following his own disqualification. After all, Chaudhry Nisar had been a close Sharif confidante who stayed loyal to the party through difficult times and acted as Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly when the then military ruler sent Sharif into exile. It seemed natural for him to feel offended for being ignored and openly express his feelings, too.

But he has since been violating norms of democratic behaviour, censuring Prime Minster Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif for their statements on sensitive foreign policy matters. In Wednesday’s session of the National Assembly, he led a chorus of Opposition criticism against the PM and FM on a host of issues, including Rohingya exodus, ‘free Balochistan’ propaganda in Switzerland, as well as for not reacting strongly to a recent US drone strike in the Kurram Agency. He also took the Foreign Office to task for not preempting “an anti-Pakistan” resolution at the recent BRICS summit in China. Taking on Abbasi he said, “The very next day, PM Abbasi met the US Ambassador for what we were told was ‘a courtesy call’. We should have been expressing our displeasure not extending courtesy.”As a veteran politician, he is expected to know better than that. The ambassador surely made the courtesy call not for having a chitchat with the PM over a cup of coffee but to discuss matters of mutual interest, in which the drone attack might have come up. Summoning him to the Foreign Office to be handed a demarche at this point in time could only further strain already strained relations.

In any event, it is for the Opposition to raise such issues in Parliament, not a member of the ruling party. Chaudhry Sahib should have aired his concerns in closed-door meetings with authorities concerned. In fact he mentioned that he would have taken up the matter with the PM had he been in the country. If he had really intended to do that he could have waited for a few days for the PM to return home. But as noted earlier this was not the only time the PML-N leader had lashed out at the government. He should not be causing embarrassment to his own party’s government. As someone who has been consistently winning elections from his home constituency and is respected for his moral uprightness, the right thing for Chaudhry Nisar Ali would be either to follow the party line in Parliament or shift to the Opposition benches. He should not be sitting on the treasury benches and taking the lead role in taking the government to task for its policy decisions.