- PM apologises to Khurshid Shah and Aitzaz over Nisar’s allegations as PPP leaders warn Sharif to be wary of aides like interior minister
- Aitzaz urges PM to reshuffle his cabinet after current political crisis is resolved
- Nisar refuses to accept requests by PM, other party leaders not to hold press conference against Aitzaz
- Abdul Qadir Baloch likely to replace Nisar as interior minister if latter remains defiant
The government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is facing yet another challenging situation, this time within his party ranks, as a war of words between his ego-centric interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and prominent lawyer and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Senator Aitzaz Ahsan tested the recent claims of a “united parliament”.
Late on Thursday night, Nisar had accused Aitzaz of representing the biggest land mafia in the country and using Benazir Bhutto’s name for personal gains, among other things.
HEATED JOINT SESSION:
Addressing the joint session, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Khurshid Shah implicitly referred to Nisar as a wolf in the guise of a sheep, while asking him to apologise to parliament and Aitzaz.
“The interior minister is a snake up your sleeve. That man (Nisar) has breathed life into the dying forces which are trying to oust you,” Shah said, warning the prime minister to be wary of people who bring their leaders at a crossroads.
After Shah’s address, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif interjected the joint session to issue an apology, while urging the opposition to show magnanimity.
Sharif said he had already apologised to both Aitzaz and Shah for the incident on Thursday night.
“I hope the opposition will continue on its path,” Sharif said, adding that the government and opposition can settle their issues later on but should unite to face the bigger challenges at this juncture.
NOT A BED OF ROSES:
Referring to the PAT sit-in during the PPP led-government’s tenure, the premier said: “I had convened a meeting of leaders in Lahore in support of the system.”
Further, he said he was not striving to safeguard his rule, claiming “being prime minister of Pakistan is not a bed of roses”.
The premier also took the opportunity to lament that foreign dignitaries, particularly the Chinese president, had cancelled their visits to Pakistan due to the current political turmoil.
“I don’t know what’s happening about that. His trip would’ve been very beneficial for the country and would have brought us $34 billion,” he proclaimed.
But Sharif’s efforts to control heated tempers went in vain as a furious Aitzaz hit back at Nisar, resulting in an argument between the two on the floor of the House, while other parliamentary leaders tried to calm Nisar and some even approached Shah to request Aitzaz to cut short his address.
At one point, Aitzaz threatened to walk out of parliament, warning that the entire opposition would follow suit.
At one point, Sharif asked Nisar to sit next to him, while trying to convince him not to respond to Aitzaz. Meanwhile, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, who is reportedly not on speaking terms with Nisar, was a silent spectator for the most part till he walked up to the NA speaker, perhaps asking him to adjourn the proceedings.
Their efforts to defuse the situation, however, failed as Nisar rose up the moment Aitzaz concluded his speech, only to be cut short by the call for Friday prayers.
The premier was seen holding Nisar’s arm towards the end of the session and soon after, the interior minister left the House. The speaker immediately adjourned the proceedings, despite several attempts by AML chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed to have the floor.
BEWARE OF CLOSE AIDES:
During the joint session, while thanking the prime minister for personally apologising and expressing solidarity, Aitzaz referred back to his last speech in which he had warned the premier about his close aides.
“For how long will you apologise on behalf of those who have already left you?” he questioned, referring to the PM’s courtesy call Thursday night.
“There were tickers on TV that interior minister stands by his statement,” Aitzaz added.
Taking a trip down memory lane, when the PML-N government was toppled in October 1999, Aitzaz said, “The prime minister was handcuffed even as he flew out of the country but there was one man, (Nisar) who was being sent breakfast from GHQ even when he was under house arrest.”
Aitzaz mentioned his family’s role before and after Independence and quoted anecdotes from his own life, wherein he had refused to join hands with military dictators.
Further, he made a reference to Nisar’s earlier speech in which he accused Aitzaz for censuring the government, saying his tone was threatening. “Grow up, the government has to be patient,” he said, while asking the PM to reshuffle his cabinet after the current stalemate is resolved.
He said that PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s claims regarding the attitude of government ministers were appealing to the masses. “Your minister had lost the nerves until parliament stood behind you and it was our proposal to convene a joint session,” he added.
Bursting with anger, Aitzaz added, “If I decide to walk out of the House, I am sure the entire opposition would join me. You will be only left with Mehmood Achakzai.” However, he said he would not walk out because he believes in the House and the Constitution.
Further, the PPP senator clarified that he disagreed with the demand of the forced resignation of the prime minister, citing that as the reason for PPP standing with the prime minister in spite of the criticism of his party.
The PPP leader further said that Nisar should himself apologise to him in the House.
DEFIANT NISAR VOWS TO RETALIATE:
After the session, at least 10 ministers and PML-N MNAs including Hamza Shahbaz and Speaker Ayaz Sadiq went to Nisar’s chambers in NA and sought to placate his anger.
Sources said that Nisar refused to listen to the requests, saying that he had submitted to the PM’s request to not retaliate against Aitzaz in NA but the PPP senator had dragged his brother into the war of words and he would now respond in kind through a press conference.
Upon the PML-N leaders’ failure to calm Nisar, Prime Minister Sharif also made an attempt to persuade his interior minister not to hold a press conference against Aitzaz but despite trying for three hours, he also failed to prevail upon Nisar’s ego.
The prime minister is now expected to again meet Nisar in the morning (today) while the latter has announced to hold a press conference on the issue at 6pm.
Meanwhile, sources told Pakistan Today that Prime Minister Sharif may replace Nisar with Lt Gen (r) Abdul Qadri Baloch if the interior minister does not heed to his advice and desists from holding the press moot, which is likely to aggravate relations between the government and PPP.