Outgoing PM justifies changes to Official Secrets Act

Published August 16, 2023
This July 31 photo shows former prime minister Sheh­baz Sharif during a meeting with Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng at the Prime Minister’s Office in Islamabad. — Photo courtesy: PMO
This July 31 photo shows former prime minister Sheh­baz Sharif during a meeting with Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng at the Prime Minister’s Office in Islamabad. — Photo courtesy: PMO

FORMER prime minister Sheh­baz Sharif has said amendments to the Official Secrets Act were aimed at protecting the lives of intelligence officials and not intended to “target any political party”.

In his last interview before leaving the post of PM, Mr Sharif told The Guardian the intentions behind the amendments were not to curtail civil liberties but protect the lives and identities of security officials who investigated terrorists.

“I don’t think these laws would be against my party or anyone … I don’t see any serious concern in this regard.”

Mr Sharif also criticised his political rival Imran Khan but stated that he held no personal vendetta against him.

He said the word “victimisation is not in [his] dictionary” and accused Mr Khan of maltreating political rivals while in power.

“We were treated shabbily and the jail manual was violated when Khan was PM. We were terribly victimised. But we don’t believe in tit for tat … Relevant institutions, courts and rule of law would take its own course in Khan’s [legal case],” he told The Guardian.

The former prime minister clai­med his predecessor “twisted facts” on the cipher sent by the then ambassador to the US, Asad Majeed Khan.

There was no mention of any conspiracy in the cable to topple the PTI government or bring the PDM coalition into power, Mr Sharif said.

“[I]t is very unbecoming of any political, serious-minded leader to indulge in this kind of black and white lies. Khan said he had the [cable] but he had lost it. Now it has been published on a website.”

Talking about the possibility of a ban on the PTI, Mr Sharif said, “I really don’t know. It is all up to the court to decide. Personally, I don’t want any political party to be banned.”

Published in Dawn, August 16th, 2023

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