Nisar’s Difficult Position

Chaudhry Nisar is a man who has traditionally managed to win the approval of both his party and the opposition. A seasoned politician, he has throughout been a strong Sharif loyalist and during his stint as interior minister appeased the opposition as well as being reasonable. Thus, his recent shifting of stance – and the resulting public disapproval from his party – has cast ambiguity on his political future and role in the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N)

Nisar first expressed his discontent with the party in his press conference in July just before the Panama decision, where he announced his resignation as Interior minister and gave words of advice to Nawaz Sharif to tread carefully. His words caused confusion regarding his stance, as he still claimed to support PML-N yet expressed disapproval of the handling of his party’s affairs.

Nisar’s words might have been construed as constructive advice had he not followed up on his public disapproval of his party’s actions in interviews and conferences this week. In a press conference this week, the long-term Sharif loyalist offered indirect criticism of Maryam Nawaz, calling her inexperienced and expressed discontent with the relationship of his party with other institutions.

Such an explicitly disparaging statement may have some effect on the on-going campaign for the NA-120 seat, but it will definitely affect Nisar’s position in the party. Nisar’s suggestion of mending relationship with the judiciary and military is the opposite stance that Nawaz has taken by calling the Supreme Court decision a “joke” and hinting at a military conspiracy. Furthermore, Nisar’s comments on Maryam show that his split with PML-N is more permanent than it seemed, as the party is not likely to dim the spotlight from Maryam any time soon.

Most notable is the fact that this is the first time that Nisar has publically disagreed with his party, something that the former Interior Minister also remarked upon. The public nature of his discontent and his newfound affinity for press conferences reveal that perhaps Nisar’s break from Nawaz is impending.

It also shows the new path that PML-N is taking – of confrontation and of passing the Sharif legacy to Maryam - is one that the former interior minister is not willing to take. There is certainly a faction in the PML-N that feels the same way; but most have kept their reservations to themselves. Perhaps these comments from Chaudhry Nisar can prompt other leaders to go public with their reservations.