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Dawn Leaks: Pak Army Takes on Nawaz Sharif, Govt Slams ISPR Tweet as 'Poison'

The already strained civil-military equation in Pakistan seemed headed for a showdown on Saturday when the Army rejected the government's move to sack a top advisor in connection with the episode known as 'Dawn Leaks' where the country's leading newspaper reported the details of a high-level civil-military meeting that questioned banned jihadi outfits freely operating in Pakistan.

News18.com

Updated:April 29, 2017, 8:45 PM IST
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New Delhi: The already strained civil-military equation in Pakistan seemed headed for a showdown on Saturday when the Army rejected the government's move to sack a top advisor in connection with the episode known as 'Dawn Leaks' where the country's leading newspaper reported the details of a high-level civil-military meeting that questioned banned jihadi outfits freely operating in Pakistan.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's Office on Saturday issued directives to remove Syed Tariq Fatemi, special assistant to the prime minister on foreign affairs, from his post for his alleged role in 'Dawn leaks', saying that a notification in this regard will be issued shortly.

However, the issue caught fire as hours after the directive, the military leadership said the Army had rejected the notification, calling it 'incomplete'.

Director General of Interservices Public Relations (ISPR) Major Asif Ghafoor, who heads the military's media arm, said in a tweet: "Notification on Dawn Leak is incomplete and not in line with recommendations by the Inquiry Board. Notification is rejected."

The government instantly tried to contain the situation that could get out of hand in a country with a history of military coups – Nawaz himself was deposed once by the Army – but it was not willing to blink yet.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Saturday afternoon slammed what he said was 'unnecessary noise' surrounding the directives issued by the PM's Office earlier in the day.

Answering a question on the matter, he started off saying: "Let me first say that I believe that tweets, sent out by whichever institution, are a deadly poison for Pakistan's democracy, system and justice."

"Our institutions address each other through tweets and that is very unfortunate," he said, in an apparent reference to a tweet sent out ISPR's Major Ghafoor.

The controversial directive to sack Fatemi came after an inquiry committee probing a story published by Dawn on October 6, 2016, submitted its findings in a report to the PMO. The PM's Office did not mention why action was ordered against Fatemi.

The PM's Office also said it recommended referring Dawn to the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) for "necessary disciplinary action", but did not say what the charges against Editor Dawn or journalist Cyril Almeida — who wrote the story — are.

The APNS has additionally been asked to develop a Code of Conduct for print media, especially when it comes to stories that deal with "issues of national importance and security".

The story by Almeida had kicked up a storm and an embarrassed Army that was seen as being ordered around by the political leadership to shed its “strategic assets” like Lashkar chief Hafez Sayed and Jaish-e-Mohammed’s Maulana Masood Azhar.

The story reported the details of a high-level civil-military meeting discussing the issue of banned outfits operating in Pakistan including Lashkar – that was behind the Mumbai terror attacks – and Jaish – which carried out the attacks on Indian Parliament.

Sharif's PMO 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 to Dawn journalist Almeida.

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."

The publication of the story led to the sacking of Pervaiz Rasheed as information minister, as the government felt Rasheed should have told the newspaper not to publish it. Almeida's name was also placed on the Exit Control List (ECL) after the publication of the story, but later removed by the interior ministry after human rights and media organisations condemned the move.

ALSO READ: Sharif Sacks Trusted Aide After News Leak Scandal

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