ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has issued directives for the removal of Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs Syed Tariq Fatemi and a senior information ministry official in line with the recommendations of the committee set up to hold an inquiry into a story published in Dawn last year.
“Allocation of portfolio of foreign affairs to Syed Tariq Fatemi, special assistant to the prime minister, shall be withdrawn. Necessary notification in this regard should be issued forthwith,” says the directives signed by Prime Minister’s Principal Secretary Fawad Hasan Fawad.
It further says, “Rao Tehsin Ali, Principal Information Officer (PIO) of the Ministry of Information, shall be proceeded against under E&D (Efficiency and Discipline) Rules 1973 on the charges based on findings in the instant report”, yet to be made public.
The development revolves around the story published in Dawn on Oct 6 last year which gave details of a meeting of civilian and military officials on ways to deal with militants.
Army, opposition reject notification issued by Prime Minister Office; Nisar surprised at ISPR tweet
In several clarifications at the time the news report was described by the government and the army as ‘half-truth’, ‘baseless’, ‘fabricated’, ‘security breach’, and ‘planted’, leading to a high-level inquiry to ascertain the source of the story by a committee comprising civilian and military intelligence officers.
Dawn’s editor and the reporter concerned fully participated in the inquiry, presenting their point of view.
According to the PM’s directives, the role of Daily Dawn, its editor and the reporter “shall be referred to All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) for necessary disciplinary action to be taken against them”.
The prime minister has called for developing “a code of conduct for the print media, especially when dealing with issues relating to security of Pakistan and to ensure that stories on issues of national importance and security are published by abiding to basic journalistic and editorial norms”.
The premier has asked the “concerned ministries and divisions” to take “further necessary action” for implementation of the directives.
Hours after the PM’s directives, the Cabinet Division issued a notification, saying “the prime minister has been pleased to withdraw the portfolio of foreign affairs, with immediate effect, from Tariq Fatemi, the special assistant to the PM with the status of minister of state”.
The Establishment Division also issued a notification directing Rao Tehsin “to report to the Establishment Division with immediate effect and until further order”.
On April 26, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had presented the seven-member inquiry committee’s report to the PM, saying that the findings would be made public with the latter’s approval.
The committee, headed by retired Justice Aamer Raza Khan, was constituted by the interior ministry in November to ascertain the source who leaked information about a high-level security meeting attended by top military and civilian officials.
Other members of the committee were Establishment Secretary Tahir Shahbaz, Punjab Ombudsman Najam Saeed, Federal Investigation Agency Punjab Director Dr Usman Anwar and one representative each from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Military Intelligence (MI) and Intelligence Bureau (IB).
Soon after the PM Office issued orders, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor through his official social media account declared the “notification incomplete” and “rejected” it.
“Notification on Dawn Leak is incomplete and not in line with recommendations by the Inquiry Board. Notification is rejected,” the ISPR chief tweeted.
The tweet caused a stir in the political, media and social circles and leaders from the opposition parties, including the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), issued statements, criticising the government’s move and demanding the release of full inquiry report.
Chaudhry Nisar, addressing a news conference in Karachi, expressed his surprise and concerns over the ongoing furore. He even indirectly criticised the ISPR for its immediate reaction on the basis of the directives issued by the PM Office, and that too through Twitter.
He said the final notification would be issued by the interior ministry and would be in line with “the black and white recommendations” made by the inquiry committee.
“I believe that tweets, sent out by whosoever, are zehr-e-qatil (deadly poison) for Pakistan’s democracy, our system and justice,” the minister said when his comments were sought on the development. “Institutions should not address each other through tweets,” he said in an obvious reference to the ISPR DG’s tweet. “Why is there such a furore around it? I feel like we are doing this country a disservice by acting like this,” he said.
“These are monumental issues, and we are handling them with tweets. It is unfortunate,” the minister said, adding: “Nobody will be shielded and nobody is attempting to shield anyone. Whatever the committee’s black and white recommendations are the interior ministry will use them as a basis for its notification.”
Opposition rejects report
Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khurshid Shah rejected the inquiry report, terming it “bogus and incomplete.”
He alleged that the government was using state institutions and officials for doing “corruption” and hiding its lies.
Mr Shah said that the Supreme Court judges should review their decision of setting up a joint investigation team (JIT) in the Panama Papers case after seeing the result of the inquiry committee report on Dawn news story.
He suggested that instead of a JIT, the court should constitute a commission comprising chief justices of all the provinces or four senior SC judges. He also called for the prime minister’s resignation, saying that the report in the Dawn story issue had proved that investigations against the prime minister could not take place in a transparent manner if he stayed in office.
PTI chairman Imran Khan through his official social media account said that “DawnLeaks was a deliberate attempt to malign Pakistan Army and government must immediately make public the complete report”.
PTI’s information secretary Naeemul Haq in a statement said that after the judiciary, the “second biggest state institution” had declared that the prime minister was a “dishonest” person. He said the inquiry committee on Dawn story had been constituted to sweep the matter under the carpet.
Mr Haq said the nation wanted to know if the inquiry committee had probed the prime minister, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and his political secretary Fawad Hasan Fawad in the matter.
Published in Dawn, April 30th, 2017