Pakistan Sacks Information Minister Pervaiz Rasheed Over Dawn Story

[SEE:  Pak. Press (Dawn) Defended By Indian Press, Against Assault By Pak Army Dictatorship ]pervaiz-rashid

Information Minister Parvaiz Rasheed has resigned from his position as Minister for Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage, DawnNews reported Saturday.

A statement issued by the Prime Minister’s office said: “Evidence available so far pints to a lapse on part of the information minister, who has been directed to step down from the office to enable holding of an independent and detailed inquiry.”

The development comes after the publication of Dawn’s story “Act against militants or face international isolation, civilians tell military”, which reported details of a high level civil-military meeting discussing the issue of Pakistan’s banned outfits.

The report of the high-profile security meeting has forced the government to initiate an inquiry to identify the person responsible for its leak.

Sources also said Rasheed’s portfolio was taken away after a preliminary inquiry was launched by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. They added that the premier has ordered a formal inquiry as to whether Rasheed was involved in the leak from the meeting.

Speaking to DawnNews, PM spokesperson Musadiq Malik said, ” A committee has been formed for the investigation of Dawn’s story and investigations have entered the final phase.”

“Pervaiz Rasheed was responsible for the Information Department and he is temporarily suspended from his post until investigations conclude,” Malik added.

“The committee was formed because no conclusive evidence has come forth. The details are with the committee Ch Nisar was heading,” he said, adding that a press conference will be held by the interior minister tomorrow (Sunday).

“The investigation report will only come when the investigation is over. The investigation is being done with all sobriety, all responsible will be punished.”

A statement issued today by the PM House contains details of the inquiry committee: “An inquiry committee including senior officers of ISI, MI and IB is being formed by the government to apportion the blame, identify interests and motives and expose all those responsible for this episode of stern action in the national interest.”

The Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) said earlier this week that Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Interior Minister Ch Nisar and Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif called on the army chief to brief him on the progress of the investigation and recommendations related to the story. The meeting was also attended by DG ISI General Rizwan Akhtar.

The story, the backlash

The Prime Minister’s Office had rejected the story, but the military maintained the story had been “leaked” and demanded a probe into the matter as it viewed the leak as a breach of national security.

Journalist Cyril Almeida’s name was also placed on the Exit Control List (ECL) after the publication of the story but his name was later removed by the Interior Ministry as a “goodwill gesture”.

Read more: ECL misstep

In an Editor’s note, Dawn clarified its position and stated on the record that the story “was verified, cross-checked and fact-checked.”

Earlier this month, participants of a corps commander meeting expressed serious concern over what they said was “feeding of false and fabricated story of an important security meeting held at PM House and viewed it as breach of national security.

Media reports also stated Saturday that Defence Minister Khawaja Asif has left for Dubai with his family. However, Musadiq Malik said Asif’s departure was not connected to the probe into the story.

In a tweet, Asif said he is in Dubai to attend a wedding and will return on Sunday.

The prime minister’s Principal Information Officer Rao Tehseen has been suspended from his post and made an officer on special duty (OSD), DawnNews reported.

Earlier he had been barred from leaving the federal capital for the past eight days by the interior ministry. Tehseen will remain suspended till the completion of inquiry into the matter.

PTI celebrates, PPP offers solution

PTI chief Imran Khan congratulated the nation after Rasheed resigned.

“Mubarak to nation! One darbari sacked, the other flees & the rest start trembling as they look over their shoulders! NS’s darbar disappearing,” he tweeted.

“If they [government officials] are involved in the leak, they should be tried under the Army Act,” said PTI leader Mehmood-ur-Rasheed.

Adviser to the Chief Minister on Information Moula Bux Chandio urged the government to accept the demands of accountability and four demands of Bilawal Bhutto to avert the crisis.

“If government accepts demands of the nation and Bilawal Bhutto, the government can get out of the crisis,” the PPP leader said

“Government by scapegoating the Information Minister has accepted that the democratic government was responsible for the information leak,” he added.