The Pakistan government removed information minister Pervaiz Rashid because he failed to stop a “false” news report regarding a high-level security meeting from being published, interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said on Sunday.
“Pervaiz Rashid should have told the journalist concerned that the story is incorrect, and should not be published in the national interest and upon resistance he could have asked the editor of the newspaper not to run the story,” Khan told a news conference a day after the information minister was sacked.
The October 6 report in the Dawn daily about a rift between the civil and military leadership on tackling terrorist groups had created a storm in Pakistan. Giving in to pressure from the military, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday ordered a probe to establish who had leaked information to Dawn journalist Cyril Almeida.
Khan described the events quoted in the report - including a dispute between Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif, the younger brother of the premier, and the ISI chief over action against “non-state actors” - as absolutely baseless.
“There has always been a consensus between the civil-military leadership on non-state actors,” said Khan, who is himself considered close to the military.
He said the decision to remove the information minister was taken after initial findings of a probe into the matter, with the army being taken into confidence. A complete inquiry is till pending, he added.
“A high power committee will probe the ‘Dawn leaks’ and those responsible will be exposed. No one should attempt to hide behind the right to information act and the right to protect sources…This is a matter of national security,” Khan said, suggesting Almeida will be questioned by the inquiry committee.
Khan said he was assured by representatives of Dawn that Almeida will be available for questioning. “Else, the law will take its course,” he said.
Referring to a planned lockdown of Islamabad on November 2 by Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e- Insaf (PTI) party, the interior minister said the opposition party intended to shut down the federal capital.
“What sort of message will this send out to the world if the capital of a nuclear power is locked down,” he questioned. “This would be a crime not just against the government but a crime against the state.”
The interior minister recalled that Islamabad was closed for four months because of a sit-in by Imran Khan’s party in 2014.
The protesters are planning to overrun the Pakistan Secretariat , he said, questioning how a mob of 12,000 people from a province can run over the capital and destroy everything.
The interior minister said the government intended to keep everything up and running.
Reacting to the interior minister’s news conference, Imran Khan said there was a need to find out all those responsible behind the security leak.
“Pervaiz Rashid cannot be so innocent to just forward a story without asking anyone about it,” he said. “There is a need to find out if Rashid was all alone in his act or was backed by some people of the Sharif family.”
Imran Khan added, “The security leaks put forth a stance similar to Narendra Modi’s rhetoric against Pakistan in order to please the Indo-Israel lobby. ”