Another PM House huddle on probe row

Updated May 10 2017

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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday held another consultative meeting with his close aides, including federal ministers, to discuss the issues of national importance, with particular reference to the controversy surrounding government actions over recommendations of the special inquiry committee set up to probe the publication of a report in Dawn on a national security meeting last October.

There was no official word from the Prime Minister Office about the meeting which, according to sources, continued for several hours.

The meeting took place three days after the prime minister’s reported meeting with Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.

A source in the interior ministry confirmed that Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had spent more than five hours with the prime minister and because of that he had to even cancel his scheduled participation in an event at the National Database and Registration Authority headquarters. The ministry staff had even told media persons that the minister would talk to the press at the authority’s headquarters at 3.45pm. But later the reporters were told that the event had been cancelled due to some pressing engagements of Chaudhry Nisar.

Meanwhile, Geo TV channel reported that the federal government had decided not to issue any new notification “for the time being” relying on its April 29 move to remove the PM’s special assistant and a senior information ministry official in line with the recommendations of the inquiry committee on the Dawn report.

Quoting unnamed sources, it said the decision was taken at a meeting of Prime Minister Sharif with his close aides and senior members of the government. He decided to hold another session of “consultation” with more people soon.

“Today’s meeting was just a kind of consultation session,” the channel quoted its source as saying. “Another meeting with more people is expected in this regard.”

Tuesday’s meeting was convinced that the notification issued by the PM House last month was enough and in line with the recommendations of the inquiry committee and that there was no subject left which had not been addressed in the notification.

In the April 29 notification, directives were issued for the removal of Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs Syed Tariq Fatemi and Principal Information Officer Rao Tehsin Ali. Soon after the PM Office issued orders, Inter-Services Public Relations Director General Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, through his official social media account, declared the notification “incomplete” and “rejected” it.

Within a few hours of the development, Chaudhry Nisar said the final notification would be issued by the interior ministry and that would be in line with the “black and white recommendations” made by the inquiry committee. However, details of Tuesday’s meeting suggested there was nothing left to come out in near future on the subject.

“The participants in the meeting also expressed reservations on the way the PM House’s notification was rejected through a tweet,” said the news channel quoting the source. “The meeting has decided that the details of the recommendations should not be released for the time being. At the same the participants said that if any segment had any reservation over the government’s move, it should formally convey such thought or feeling to the quarters concerned.”

Earlier, the prime minister held a high level meeting in Lahore on April 29 during which he had reportedly instructed senior government members to defuse the stand-off between the government and the military over the release of the inquiry report to the media.

Published in Dawn, May 10th, 2017