In a press conference held to shed light on the reasons behind Pervaiz Rasheed’s dismissal from office as information minister, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar on Sunday said Rasheed should not have let Dawn’s story go into print.
A day after Pervaiz Rasheed was asked to step down from his post as information minister during a probe into Dawn's story on a high-level meeting, Nisar said, "Some documented and undocumented records involving Pervaiz Rasheed say the reporter contacted him for comments about a story regarding [Punjab Chief Minister] Shahbaz Sharif and the ISI chief."
"Pervaiz Rasheed called the reporter into his office. Through my entire investigation... I reached the conclusion that Pervaiz Rasheed should have told the reporter that this story is wrong, 'Do not publish this story in view of national interest'," Nisar said.
"He should have spoken to [Dawn Editor] Zaffar Abbas, Dawn's management or the government. So there is a lapse. He had a duty as information minister when these decisions [his resignation] were made... He should have understood the implications of the story and stopped it."
Nisar maintained that all information given to Dawn about an altercation between Shahbaz Sharif and the ISI chief, or the foreign secretary's comments that Pakistan stands isolated in the world are all false.
The development comes after the publication of Dawn's story "Act against militants or face international isolation, civilians tell military", which reported details of a high level civil-military meeting discussing the issue of Pakistan's banned outfits.
The report of the high-profile security meeting has forced the government to initiate an inquiry to identify the person responsible for its leak.
PM, COAS briefed on probe
Nisar said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif were briefed regarding a probe into the story when all three met in Quetta a day after the police academy attack, where the interior minister shared details regarding the probe.
"I shared with him [the PM] the details and recommendations. The PM asked me some questions and in principle approved the recommendations. He asked me to share them with the COAS. Ishaq Dar was also there in the meeting, so was Shahbaz Sharif."
"We made a call and went to Army House. Not in secret. It was no late-night clandestine meeting," Nisar clarified. "As usual, the meeting with COAS was very pleasant. There were reports of it being strained and tense."
"Because this is a high-profile probe, senior officials have to initiate this. A legal team, led by our law minister, was also complying. The Federal Investigation Agency and Islamabad police are all complying," he said.
A high-level inquiry committee comprising intelligence officials and other senior officials will be finalised by the prime minister.
'Consensus on non-state actors'
"The story says there was a bitter exchange between the ISI chief and CM Shahbaz. This is not true. There was no such meeting... Where the foreign secretary made a briefing. The next day, there was a meeting and I was in the meeting. The foreign secretary gave a briefing in this meeting, but there was no bitterness," he emphasised.
"When it comes to non-state actors, there has been no contradiction. There has always been consensus."
"The foreign secretary is a competent person. He did say India is trying to isolate Pakistan, but never said Pakistan is isolated. His words were distorted and broadcast to the whole world. The country's national interest has been compromised," Nisar said.
"I told the PM, whoever is responsible,I will get to the bottom of it. I agree there should be an inquiry, but I am not cut out to be an investigator."
"There is a unanimous agreement: whoever has leaked this false news should be brought in front of the nation. Who has leaked this story? Who fabricated this? Pakistan's national narrative is being compromised by a false report," he claimed.
"Do not politicise this case. The hand behind this story should be exposed," he said.
Islamabad 'lockdown' a crime against the state
The interior minister said locking down the capital is not a crime against the government, but a crime against the state.
"Along with political activity, ensuring normal daily activities is also my responsibility," he said.
In a message to PTI chief Imran Khan, Nisar said, "The seeds you are sowing will spoil the roots of Pakistan.
"If the country is closed, it will bring a bad name to the country."