The post-election internet was won by a barrage of Jehangir Tareen memes chasing independent candidates across the country. Among these were a few featuring Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and how he was not approached by the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) despite his PP-10 victory.
Several PTI leaders have confirmed that the reason the party never approached Nisar was because of his longstanding rivalry with Chaudhry Ghulam Sarwar.
“Chaudhry Sarwar has defeated him in the National Assembly seats and he is not ready for any kind of adjustment with him,” said PTI spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry. “Of course, when your local leader is not ready to let some people contest the by-election, why would we contact those candidates?”
With the PTI out of the way and by-elections to be contested on NA-59 or NA-63 – both of which were won by the PTI’s Ghulam Sarwar, one of which he has to vacate – Nisar might be on the verge of taking part in the polls as a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) candidate and formally re-join the party.
Nisar’s fallout with the PML-N began when the Nawaz Sharif’s time as the then country’s prime minister was winding down. It was punctuated when the former interior minister addressed a feisty press conference on the eve of the Panama Papers verdict, which ousted Nawaz from office in July last year.
Nisar believed that he deserved to be the next premier considering his services for the PML-N and his seniority. Given the anti-establishment narrative that Nawaz Sharif had decided upon in the aftermath of his ouster, Nisar – with his close ties with the military leadership – was never going to fit the bill for him.
As Nisar stepped down as the interior minister, and refused to be a part of the Shahid Khaqan Abbasi cabinet, he continued to criticise many of the PML-N’s policies. The most prominent among these was his castigation of the prominent role that Maryam Nawaz had taken up within the party, with Nisar downright refusing to work under Nawaz Sharif’s daughter.
Last month, for the first time in over three decades, Nisar contested elections without a PML-N ticket. Being the PML-N’s designated decision-maker in the Potohar region, Nisar was the one who would hand out tickets to the candidates.
Catastrophe ensued for both, as Nisar won only one of his four seats, with the PML-N being swept out of northern Punjab.
It is because of this that the PML-N needs a few by-election triumphs and the PTI’s failure to land Nisar has prompted talks of a potential reunion.
“The reconciliatory group that features Shehbaz Sharif and Saad Rafiq are working on giving the party ticket to Nisar [for the by-elections],” a senior PML-N leader revealed.
“They actually wanted to give the ticket before the elections as well, but were stopped by Mian Nawaz Sharif. Mian Sahib was in London at the time and gave instructions not to give the ticket to Chaudhry Nisar,” he added.
PML-N insiders reveal that a committee had been formed within the PML-N to deliberate on Chaudhry Nisar and whether or not he should be taken on board. A meeting with Nawaz Sharif in Adiala Jail is also on the cards.
“There have been views within the party with regards to Chuadhry Nisar from the start,” PML-N leader Saira Afzal Tarar said.
“And even though a committee has taken a certain decision, ultimately the final decision will be taken by Mian Nawaz Sharif. I’ve felt from day one that [Chaudhry Nisar] has not gone anywhere.”
However, certain leaders within the PML-N are adamant that reconciling with Nisar would send the wrong signal on behalf of the PML-N.
Senior political analyst Wajahat Masood says it would be “unfortunate” if Nisar returns to the PML-N.
“The PML-N needs to understand – from top to bottom – that Nawaz Sharif has not arrived at his current position owing to any other reason but the simple reality that the country cannot survive without its implementation,” he says.
“If Chaudhry Nisar joins the PML-N again, it will be unfortunate for the democratic paradigm in this country. I don’t think the PML-N realises what the party’s responsibilities are under the given circumstances.”