Pakistan military rejects Dawn leaks ‘notification’ from PM office

MAMOSA Report — Pakistan military spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor on Saturday rejected a notification issued by the Prime Minister’s Office directing disciplinary measures against the people allegedly involved in the publication of a national security related story published in daily Dawn last year.

“Notification on Dawn Leak is incomplete and not in line with recommendations by the Inquiry Board. Notification is rejected,” the Director General of ISPR Maj. Gen. Ghafoor posted on Twitter. He did not offer any details on how the notification differed from the findings of the investigative committee.

Shortly after the army’s response, Sharif addressed two rallies in the cities of Sargodha and Okara in Punjab province but made no mention of the army’s tweet. Sharif said he would not resign, in response to opposition leader Imran Khan’s call for him to step down over alleged corruption.

“Opponents call for resignation over everything,” Mr. Sharif told supporters. “Nawaz Sharif will not resign at anyone’s insistence.”

Analysts say that while the prime minister remains defiant, his hold on power is slipping.

“The prime minister wants to fight it out, but he is in deep waters. He is weakened politically and morally after the court’s verdict,” Mr. Zahid Hussain, a leading political analyst told the New York Times. “It is a very tricky situation for him now.”

“The statement by the military will certainly intensify the standoff between the civilians and the military,” Hussain said. “We all know how powerful the military is in the country, but today’s development takes the civil-military conflict even further.”

“Some have speculated that the investigation into the leaks implicates persons close to Mr. Sharif,” reported NYT.

Per the notification, Syed Tariq Fatemi, the Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs, was held responsible for the leaks and subsequently removed from his post for not obtaining permission prior to sharing details of a confidential meeting with Dawn. It also held that Rao Tehsin Ali, the principal information officer for the Ministry of Information, would be penalized under the Government Servants (Efficiency and Discipline) Rules, 1973. The notification also slated Dawn editors Zafar Abbas and Cyril Almeida.

The increasing tension with the military complicates Mr. Sharif’s hold over power further as he faces an investigation into his family’s offshore wealth. The Supreme Court this month ordered the inquiry as it ruled on a case involving accusations of corruption and money laundering relating to Mr. Sharif’s family’s properties in London. The allegations were based on the Panama Papers, secret documents about the world of offshore finance that were leaked to journalists.

Mr. Sharif has denied any wrongdoing, but faces mounting pressure to resign.

Leaders of the PTI and PPP both came out in favor of the military, effectively supporting the Army’s stance. Both parties have been demanding Mr. Sharif’s resignation prior to the Panama Case joint investigation, which must be completed in two months, the top court ordered last week.

Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly and senior PPP leader Khursheed Shah said the military’s rejection of the PMO notification was “100 percent correct.”

Similarly, PTI spokesman Naeemul Haq told a private TV channel that the military’s statement proved the government was “hiding” the truth. He said dismissing Fatemi was insufficient and vowed to prevent any conspiracy against the Pakistan Army.

Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Tahirul Qadri also criticized the government over the issue in a series of tweets. He said the matter was related to Pakistan’s national security and those responsible for the leaks should be punished under the official secrets act.

“The PML-N-led government has committed another crime by not implementing all the recommendations of the Dawn Leaks inquiry [committee]. [The] criminal conduct of the Sharif government with regards to national security has come out in the open,” Qadri tweeted.

Earlier this afternoon, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan slammed what he said was ‘unnecessary noise’ surrounding the directives issued by the PM’s Office, saying that a formal notification has yet to be issued in this regard.

He further said the “final notification” would be issued by his ministry and would be in line with the recommendations we have received from the [inquiry] committee.”

“The PM’s Secretariat or the PM’s Office need to read the rules of business: they cannot issue notifications,” Nisar added.

Answering a question on the matter at an unrelated press conference in Karachi, he started off saying: “Whatever I say will be in accordance with the law. I believe that tweets, sent out by whichever institution, are a deadly poison for Pakistan’s democracy, our system and justice.”

“Institutions should not address each other through tweets,” he said, in an apparent reference to the tweet sent out by the military’s media wing, a few hours earlier.

“Nobody will be shielded and nobody is attempting to shield anyone. Whatever the committee’s ‘black and white’ recommendations are, the interior ministry […] will use them as a basis for its notification,” Nisar said.

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