Info minister resigns over leaked story
ISLAMABAD – In a dramatic development, Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid yesterday stepped down and the government formed a probe committee to look into the feeding of ‘false and fabricated’ information to a newspaper about the high-level security meetings.
“Evidence available so far points to a lapse on part of information minister, who has been directed to step down from office to enable holding of an independent and detailed inquiry,” a brief directive released by the PM Office read.
The planted story related to the NSC and NAP meetings was published in Dawn on Oct 6 which was dubbed as a national security breach and even the Corps Commanders meeting held a few days later considered it a serious matter, demanding the government not only pinpoint the culprits but also award them exemplary punishment.
The PM Office said an inquiry committee comprising senior officers of the Inter-Services Intelligence, Military Intelligence and Intelligence Bureau was being formed to “clearly apportion blame, identify interests and motives and expose all those responsible for this episode for stern action in national interest”.
PM’s spokesman Musadaq Malik said Premier Nawaz Sharif sought resignation from the information minister in the light of the preliminary investigations conducted by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ahmed. He however added that Senator Pervaiz Rashid could not be held responsible for the leakage of the information unless proven guilty by the investigation body.
Musadaq said the findings of the investigation will be completed soon and made public. Nisar would be sharing details of the matter with the media today (Sunday), he added.
Soon after the publishing of the controversial story, the prime minister had directed interior minister to hold inquiry into the matter. He was supposed to complete preliminary probe in four to five days but the matter lingered on due to the alleged non-cooperation of the suspects.
Sources claimed that at a point Nisar expressed his helplessness to the PM and even threatened to dissociate himself from the investigation.
The matter took a more serious turn when the Corps Commanders met and took a serious notice of the issue.
Later, the army chief met with the PM and conveyed the concern of Armed Forces. General Raheel Sharif demanded the government bring the culprits to book as it was a very serious breach and it had tarnished the country’s image at international level.
On completion of initial inquiry by government, Ch Nisar along with Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar went to the residence of Army Chief on Thursday where it was decided that a high-powered committee comprising ISI, MS and IB officials be formed to fix responsibility of the leak.
In a related development, government has removed Rao Tehseen from the post of Principal Information Officer (PIO) and he has been told to stay in capital and make sure his availability anytime for appearing before inquiry committee.
Interestingly, neither establishment division nor information ministry had so far issued any notification of his removal.
Sources said Information Secretary Saba Mohsin Raza is out of country for attending the session of Asian Broadcasting Union General Assembly. They said Pervaiz Rashid and Rao Tehsseen were in Islamabad but they were not taking phone calls from any official of the information ministry.
One the two meetings relating to the information leakage, in which implementation of the National Action Plan was discussed, was chaired by the Prime Minister on October 4. It was attended by federal ministers Ishaq Dar, Ch Nisar Ali, Pervaiz Rashid; SAPM Tariq Fatemi; SPM Fawad Hasan Fawad; Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Ch; NSA Lt-Gen (r) Nasser Khan Janjua from the civilian side.
Army Chief General Raheel Sharif, ISI DG Lt-Gen Rizwan Akhtar, MI DG Maj-Gen Nadeem Zaki Manj, IB DG Aftab Sultan and DGMO Maj-Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza represented army and intelligence agencies at the meeting. It was also attended by chief ministers Shehbaz Sharif, Pervez Khattak, Murad Ali Shah, Sana Ullah Zehri and Hafiz Hafeez ur Rehman of Gilgit-Baltistan, and KP Governor Iqbal Zafar Jhagra