By Ansar AbbasiOctober 20, 2016Print : Top Story
ISLAMABAD: Controversy generated by the Dawn story appears to have now become a source of endless tension for civilian and military leadership, as despite repeated rebuttals and censures the issue continues to be the focus of top-level civil-military interactions.
Handouts and press releases, issued by both sides, of these official interactions and deliberations have started raising many eyebrows instead of settling the issue. Questions are being raised if all is going well between civil and military.
Initially, the emphasis seemed to be to refute the story and punish the reporter but later the focus turned to find out who leaked/fed the story. It is evident from military reactions that it is keen to know who leaked/fed the story.
Interestingly, this situation is developing at a time when the PTI is all set to go for its “final round” of politics of street agitation, shutdown and sit-in to force Nawaz Sharif quit the government.
The Dawn’s controversial story appeared on Oct 6 but despite the lapse of 12 days the issue continues to figure on top of agenda being discussed by or between the civil and military leaderships.
Unprecedentedly numerous handouts and press statements have been issued during these days on the issue by different government institutions including PM Office, Pakistan Army, Foreign Office, Punjab Government and Interior Minister but still there is no clue how the things would conclude.
Since Oct 6, the issue has been discussed in almost every interaction held between PM and Army Chief. Dawn story, which was published on Oct 6, was strongly rebutted the same day by the PM Office as well as the Punjab government. The PM Office while rejecting the story termed its content speculative, misleading and factually incorrect. However, the same day the PM Office issued a revised press release to underline that the intelligence agencies particularly ISI are working in line with the state policy in the best interest of the nation. It added, “Indeed the Army's and ISI's role and contributions towards implementation of NAP have been proactive and unwavering.”
Punjab Chief Minister’s office in a press release, issued on Oct 6, said the comments attributed to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif in the story were incorrect and misleading. The following day, these rebuttals were published by Dawn. The newspaper opted not to contest.
On Oct 10, the PM Office issued another press release following a high level meeting chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and attended by Army Chief General Raheel Sharif, Finance Minister Muhammad Ishaq Dar, Interior Minister Ch. Nisar Ali Khan, CM Punjab Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif and DG ISI Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar.
According to the press release, the participants of the meeting expressed concern over the publication of a fabricated news story in Dawn pertaining to security issues. The release added that the story had risked the vital state interests through inclusion of inaccurate and misleading contents which had no relevance to actual discussion and facts. It added that Prime Minister took serious notice of the violation and directed that those responsible should be identified for stern action.
The meeting, according to the press release, reaffirmed that Army and Intelligence Agencies shall continue to play a lead role in fight against terrorism which is proceeding smoothly and without any discrimination whatsoever with complete consensus of all stakeholders.
Following Oct 10th events, the electronic media while quoting top military sources said that the military had not asked for any action either against the newspaper or the reporter but sought action against those who had allegedly leaked/fed the story.
Two days later, Interior Minister Chauhry Nisar Ali Khan in a press conference when asked about what the military sources had told media, he said that he did not recognize any military sources and would respond with facts only when someone from military comes on the record on the matter.
On Oct 14, ISPR issued a press release following Corps Commander’s Conference was held at GHQ. The military command expressed their serious concern over “feeding of false and fabricated story of an important security meeting” held at PM house and viewed it as breach of national security.
Last week, in its weekly briefing, the Foreign Office spokesman also rebutted the story and termed the content of the story as untrue. On Oct 17, the PM Office issued a press release following Army Chief’s meeting with the Prime Minister, which said that matters pertaining to national and regional security were discussed during the meeting. However, while quoting sources, the media reported that the Army Chief on Monday had apprised Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of the serious concerns expressed by the corps commanders’ meeting last week over the breach of national security by feeding of false and fabricated material about a high-level huddle held at the PM House on national security.
The prime minister was quoted as saying that the inquiry into the matter had been started and it would be completed in a few days.
On Oct 18th, the prime minister is reported to have a meeting with the interior minister, who is reportedly told to complete the inquiry on merit and as soon as possible. Some media reports early this week suggested that Chaudhry Nisar, who last week had told the media about the inquiry being conducted into the matter, had distanced himself from any such inquiry.