FORMER army chief retired Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa has reportedly said that there was nothing credible in the furore created over a Dawn story published in 2016, claiming that the issue was hyped up by his predecessor in a bid to secure an extension from then-prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

The claim surfaced in the second part of the former army chief’s interview with journalist Shahid Maitla, published on Wednesday by the news website Pakistan24.tv.

In his latest article, the journalist claims the former army chief rejected the impression that the ‘Dawn leaks’ saga, as it came to be known, posed any threat to national security.

The Dawn story in question contained an account of a meeting between the country’s civilian and military leadership, where the government told the brass that it should act against militants or the country would have to face international isolation.

In the wake of its publication, civil and military officials had called the story ‘fabricated and concocted’ and a committee headed by a retired judge and consisting of members of the country’s intelligence agencies, was formed to inquire into the matter.

“In fact there was nothing in the Dawn leaks,” Mr Maitla quoted the former army chief as saying in response to a question.

“But wherever I would meet them, junior officers would ask me about [the issue]. I then talked to Chaudary Nisar [then-interior minister] and Ishaq Dar [then-finance minister] and suggested that they refer the cases of journalists [allegedly involved in the Dawn leaks affair] to CPNE because I didn’t want to stir that hornet’s nest. And then administrative action was decided against others. Nawaz Sharif wasn’t convinced over Pervaiz Rasheed but finally he agreed. Then it was decided to sack Pervaiz Rasheed and Tariq Fatemi.”

Gen Bajwa is also said to have referred to his conversation with Nawaz Sharif, when the former prime minister told him about his predecessor Gen Raheel Sharif, who he said was insisting on a three-year extension, along with former DG ISI Rizwan Akhtar.

“When I talked to Nawaz Sharif about Dawn leaks, he told me that whenever Gen Raheel Sharif and Gen Rizwan Akhtar came to see him, they insisted for three-year extension of Gen. Raheel,” Gen. Bajwa was quoted as saying in the interview.

“In front of Gen Raheel, Gen Rizwan was always insisted on a three-year extension for the army chief. But in private, he only asked for a one-year extension because he saw himself as the next army chief after Gen. Raheel.”

After the first part of the interview appeared last week, Gen Bajwa approached various senior journalists and broadcasters, who relayed the former army chief’s claim wherein he denied giving any interview to Mr Maitla.

Earlier, Gen Bajwa is said to have spoken privately to various senior journalists, many of whom published accounts of their conversations with the ex-army chief without attr­acting any denials.

Published in Dawn, March 30th, 2023

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