- Implications for the campaign
Yet another charged Ch Nisar press conference opens the floodgates to yet more speculation about the PML-N leadership, especially Maryam Nawaz’s role, just as the election campaign enters its most crucial phase. And unless the party leadership takes urgent steps to put out this fire immediately, it will only, quite naturally, spread. Already the Sharifs have been dragging their feet on important questions. What, after all, will be Maryam’s position, and how does the party rank and file feel about it?
And what about rumours that Shahbaz and Nisar are so close that should PML-N win this election, its new setup will feature the latter in some prominent role; only widening the cleavage with Nawaz? There’s much talk in the press, also, that the present prime minister shares Nisar’s, and Shahbaz’s, advice cautioning against antagonising the judiciary. But demeaning and ridiculing the superior judiciary is clearly Nawaz’s number-one rallying cry in the campaign; backed strongly by Maryam. Perhaps Nisar is right – in the party’s long term interest – in forcing answers now rather than much closer to the vote.
But the threat about going public with the Dawn Leaks report went too far. Legally, he could not have done it on his own even when he was the interior minister. The document is government property and the decision to declassify it must come from the executive, not any ministry and certainly not from an individual. Yet, however inadvertently, Nisar’s threat does raise important questions about important matters in a functioning democracy. We must also decide, finally, how much the people really matter in this Islamic Republic; and how much they will be part of the national discourse, especially on matters of state importance. Should such documents, therefore, be inherently part of the wider conversation or should people come close to knowing what is really happening only when senior cabinet members step on each other’s egos and threaten to spill the beans?