The striking absence of the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly and PML-N stalwart Nisar Ali Khan from the party elections held in Islamabad recently raised several eyebrows in the political circles, especially in the Sharifs’ inner-most circle known otherwise for running the show.
An inquiry revealed that Nisar was unhappy with his party leadership and was staying in London for the past several days. He not only deliberately missed the elections, but was also not in a mood to talk to anybody in the party, including the Sharifs who were trying to placate him, but with little success so far. It is learnt that the main purpose of Shahbaz Sharif’s recent visit to London, other than seeking medical treatment, was to pacify Nisar, the main face of the party in the National Assembly. Khawaja Asif, who is accompanying Shahbaz has been relentlessly trying to mediate between Nisar and the Sharifs though without any luck.
The sources revealed that one of the major reasons behind Nisar’s annoyance with the Sharifs was Malik Riaz, the property tycoon and developer, who is very close to President Asif Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and the Sharifs.Riaz mediated between the Sharifs and PPP slain leader Benazir Bhutto and then President Zardari before the last general elections, bringing the two estranged political parties closer as allies. When the PPP and the PML-N fell apart, Riaz struck again, this time mediating an alliance between the Chaudhrys and the PPP leadership. Nisar claims that Riaz was orchestrating a smear campaign against him in Rawalpindi, political bastion of the opposition leader that has remained unchallenged ever since his rise to prominence. The reverberation of this campaign was even heard in the National Assembly.
Former deputy speaker Haji Nawaz Khokhar is active in NA-52 and recently announced his decision to contest the election from there. As the stage is set for the elections, Khokhar is becoming more and more visible in Nisar’s constituency, (NA-52), trying to damage the political interest of the opposition leader. Nisar believes Riaz has pitted Khokhar against him. According to the sources, Nisar is asking his party leaders to distance themselves from Riaz and stop patronising him, which seems difficult for the Sharifs.
Recently, it was learnt that Nawaz Sharif also met Riaz in Islamabad, though denied by the PML-N, and urged him to sort out issues with Nisar at least to the extent of Rawalpindi. Nawaz also complained to Riaz that he had harmed the PML-N by bringing the PML-Q and the PPP closer. But sources say that Riaz is not ready to budge from his position. The internal strife in the party, as evident from Nisar’s issues with the party’s top leadership, came at a time when the Sharifs are gearing up to challenge the PPP government in the coming days in hope of an early election.
PML-N’s newly-elected Information Secretary Mushahidullah Khan denied that there were any differences between the Sharifs and Nisar.
He said Nisar was staying in the UK for medical treatment, adding that recently, Riaz with the support of the government, tried to register voters illegally in Bahria Town (Rawalpindi), which falls in the constituency of Nisar, to make a dent in his vote bank but Nisar had failed his effort. Meanwhile, sources said that Nawaz Sharif had earlier stopped Nisar from using strong language against the ISI chief and the army.