Saturday, 4 December 2021

‘Planted story’: Retired judge to head ‘newsleak’ probe panel

ISLAMABAD: A high-powered committee to be cobbled together to investigate the issue leaking a ‘fabricated’ story about national security last month will be unveiled within a couple of days, said the country’s security czar on Saturday. “A retired high court judge will head the committee which comprises senior officials,” a senior official quoted Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan as saying.

The development came eight days after the government sacked its information minister Pervaiz Rashid after preliminary investigations established a ‘lapse’ on his part vis-à-vis the publication of the controversial story in daily Dawn on Oct 6.
In the story, reported by Cyril Almeida on the authority of unnamed sources, the civilian government had warned the military leadership in an Oct 3 high-level huddle of Pakistan’s increasing international isolation for its failure to act against non-state actors.

The government repeatedly rebutted the story as ‘false and fabricated’, but the denials failed to satisfy the military which called for unmasking and punishing those who had planted it because it was a ‘breach of national security’. The official said the interior minister vowed to constitute a committee in a day or two. While sacking Rashid, the government had said that it would form an inquiry committee, comprising senior officers of the ISI, MI and IB to “expose all those responsible for [the planted story] for stern action in the national interest”.

However, in a followup news conference the interior minister had said the committee would also include three to four ‘other members’. “No one will be able to point the finger at the honesty and sincerity of the committee’s members. This inquiry is not being conducted against Pervaiz Rashid but it aims to probe who had leaked the fabricated story,” the official quoted Nisar saying. “Rashid was relieved of his office because he had only failed to stop the publication of the story,” Nisar had said earlier.

The interior minister has repeatedly said that whoever was involved in leaking the story would be brought to justice as this story had given opportunity to foes to charge-sheet Pakistan. Apparently the government has adopted a go-slow policy in probing the issue as no tangible progress has been made in investigation. The terms of reference of the committee and a timeframe for its investigations have yet to be worked out. Defence analyst Lt Gen (retd) Talat Masood says the issue has apparently put the government in a dilemma. “They want to protect themselves and at the same time also want to satisfy the army.”

“There is also lack of coordination and lack of commitment over the issue,” he added. “I think they want to delay the process till November-end when the serving army chief [General Raheel Sharif] will retire.”

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