Pakistan to probe ex-minister for army maligning news leak

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will investigate a former information minister over a leaked news report which sparked a rift between the government and the powerful army, it was announced yesterday. The report said civilian officials had warned the military to stop supporting jihadist fighters abroad. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday sacked Information Minister Pervez Rasheed over the issue.

“It will be a full-fledged (investigation) committee as it is a huge task that intelligence agencies alone cannot do,” Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told a press conference. “Tomorrow names for the committee will be decided in a meeting with the Prime Minister and this task will be completed as soon as possible.” The leak was false news which “has compromised our national narrative (against terrorism)”, Khan said. “The military wants, and also the government and the entire nation want, to expose the people behind this news, military particularly because they have been put in the dock wrongly.”

Khan said Rasheed was removed because he failed to stop a reporter from Dawn newspaper from going ahead with the story when the reporter came to seek his comments before publication. The article in the English-language daily sparked an uproar. The journalist who wrote it was briefly hit with a travel ban. Pakistan has for years been accused of cracking down on only those Islamist groups which have turned their guns inward towards the state, while harbouring those who fight abroad.

Reporting critical of the military is considered a major red flag, with journalists at times being detained, beaten up or even killed. The minister’s sacking comes at a sensitive time for the government, as it faces street protests by the opposition over the Sharif’s family’s offshore bank accounts which were revealed in the Panama Papers leak. The military has used the pretext of civil unrest to overthrow elected governments three times in the country’s history. Analysts have warned that Sharif may need to strike a deal with the army to ensure his survival. Analysts said the military may also try to instal its preferred candidate to succeed powerful army chief Raheel Sharif, whose term expires at the end of November, as part of any deal. – AFP

This article was published on 30/10/2016