Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday appointed Syed Tariq Fatemi, a close aide of PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif, as his special assistant on foreign affairs.
A notification issued by the Cabinet Division, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, states: "The prime minister, in terms of rule 4(6) of the Rules of Business, 1973 read with serial no. 1A of Schedule V-A of the said rules, has been pleased to appoint Syed Tariq Fatemi, as special assistant to the prime minister on foreign affairs, with immediate effect."
The development comes a day after PM Shehbaz's much-delayed federal cabinet was sworn in.
A source in the PML-N had told Dawn that there was a divide within the party over the selection of cabinet members and distribution of portfolios among them. According to the source, several of Nawaz's closest aides — including Fatemi — were apparently sidelined.
Fatemi had served in the same position during the previous PML-N government under Nawaz but was removed in 2017 for his alleged role in 'Dawn leaks' — a story published in Dawn that reported the details of a high-level civil-military meeting discussing the issue of banned outfits operating in Pakistan.
The Prime Minister's Office had initially rejected the story, but the military had mounted pressure to demand a probe into the matter to determine those involved in disclosing the details of the meeting, which it said was related to the country’s national security.
A committee was then formed to probe the October 6, 2016, story and to identify the persons responsible for disclosing the details of the meeting to Cyril Almeida, who reported the story.
Nawaz’s information minister, Pervaiz Rasheed, resigned from his role after the PM’s Office said “evidence available so far points to a lapse on part of the information minister, who has been directed to step down from the office to enable holding of an independent and detailed inquiry”.
After the findings, which were not made public, then-PM Nawaz issued directives for the removal of Fatemi as his special assistant on foreign affairs. A senior information ministry official was also removed in line with the recommendations of the committee.
In an Editor's note, published on October 11, 2016, Dawn had clarified its position and stated on the record that the story “was verified, cross-checked and fact-checked”.
For his part, Fatemi had rejected the allegations levelled against him in a farewell letter and stated that the suggestions were hurtful to someone who had served Pakistan for nearly five decades.