ISLAMABAD: The standoff between the military and the civilian government over the recommendations issued in the wake of an inquiry into a Dawn story finally ended on Wednesday after the army’s spokesperson announced the decision to withdraw its controversial tweet.
The April 29 tweet by Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor had rejected the prime minister’s directives on the recommendations of the report of the inquiry committee, set up to probe the publication of a Dawn story regarding a top-level meeting of civil-military leaders.
Following Maj Gen Ghafoor’s press conference, the interior ministry released a statement, recounting the recommendations of the committee and concluding that the issue had been “settled”.
•ISPR DG withdraws tweet rejecting PM Office notification •Announcement preceded by lengthy meeting between COAS, PM and aides •Interior ministry issues fresh statement, says the issue ‘stands settled’
The developments were preceded by a meeting between Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif earlier in the day. The lengthy conclave was also attended by Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar.
“Recommendations, as contained in para 18 of the inquiry committee report, duly approved by the prime minister, have been implemented, which has settled the Dawn leaks issue. Accordingly, the tweet of April 29 stands withdrawn,” the ISPR DG told reporters during Wednesday’s briefing.
Defending himself against criticism faced in the wake of the tweet, Maj Gen Ghafoor explained that the tweet was not directed against any institution or individual.
He said the military expected the notification to be in line with the recommendations of the inquiry committee, but it was not, which prompted the press release and tweet.
“What followed it was something regrettable,” he remarked.
Regretting how society had become polarised over the issue — with some backing the army and others calling for the DG ISPR’s resignation over ‘insubordination’ — Maj Gen Ghafoor said the interior ministry’s latest order had filled in the gaps in the recommendations.
He praised the government for removing the misunderstandings that had prevailed over the past few weeks, adding that the army was a strong institution that was committed to working with all institutions to serve the best interests of the country.
“Pakistan Army believes in democracy like all other Pakistanis and will continue to work to strengthen democracy in the country while remaining [within the ambit of] the Constitution,” he said.
Asked if the army would demand further action against those responsible for the leak, he said the prime minister was the final authority and his orders should be implemented.
He avoided a volley of questions about the alleged involvement of the prime minister’s daughter, Maryam Nawaz, saying the committee had deliberated thoroughly and named all those responsible, keeping all aspects in mind.
In an apparent reference to criticism over his use of Twitter, he explained: “Tweets [are] the fastest means of communication in today’s age; my tweets should be treated as press releases.”
Interior ministry statement
The statement issued by the Interior Ministry on Wednesday said: “Since action on orders of the prime minister has already been completed by the respective ministries and divisions, the issue of Dawn [leaks] stands settled”.
There isn’t much that is new in the statement; it reproduced the four recommendations of the inquiry committee on the Dawn story, already contained more or less in the earlier notification from the PM Office.
The only new part of the interior ministry ‘notification’ was an endorsement of the removal of Senator Pervaiz Rashid as minister for information.
On April 29, the PM Office had issued directives to remove Tariq Fatemi, special assistant to the prime minister on foreign affairs, from his post over his alleged role in leaking information to Dawn.
The committee’s report — the contents of which have not been made public so far — also contained recommendations on the matter.
Action had also been ordered against Rao Tehsin, the principal information officer at the Ministry of Information “under the E&D Rules 1973” on charges levelled against him.
The PM’s Office had also recommended referring Dawn to the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) for “necessary disciplinary action”, but did not say what the charges against the Dawn Editor or Cyril Almeida — who wrote the story — would be.
The APNS was asked to develop a code of conduct for the print media, especially for stories that deal with “issues of national importance and security”.
The language of the statement suggested that the recommendations were in addition to the committee’s recommendations in Para 18 of the inquiry report.
In a series of messages from his Twitter accounts, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan said the “issue was never [about] army & government”, but rather “national security”.
“The whole nation now needs to know what was ‘settled’,” he tweeted, saying that the nation was being kept in the dark over how the matter of a national security breach was resolved.
“Manner in which [the] issue [was] resolved shows clearly there is one law for the powerful and another law for the weak. [The] inquiry commission report must be made public,” he concluded.
Senate Opposition Leader Aitzaz Ahsan minced no words in his criticism of the decision, saying that the DG ISPR should have resigned rather than withdrawing his tweet. Speaking on a TV channel, PPP leader Saleem Mandviwala said the issue would be raised in today’s (Thursday) Senate session as well.