ON Oct 06, 2016, at front page, Dawn newspaper splashed an exclusive story under a flashy banner “Act against militants or face international isolation, civilians tells military”. It was not only explosive in content but also in its timing. It was the time when our erstwhile enemy India was baying for Pakistan’ blood at every international forum which could come across. It was a tinder box of its right kind in their hands to rocket their drive to isolate Pakistan internationally. At home, an inconceivable act, causing severe perplexity, public outrage and uproar. To newspaper, it was a factual story because its stuff was verified, crosschecked and fact checked as claimed by them.
Official line was; it was a planted narrative, based on fake and fabricated material and constituted a breach of security. The culprits would be brought to fore and punished. Public view was at polar contrast what government said because circumstantial evidence was aplenty and compelling. Past history also had no comfort. They instantly dubbed it an inspired mischief by the one in PM House in league with others. Outcry was heads to roll, top down behind the scene nevertheless, had no fond hope that government would follow straight line to hand in real characters because they all belong to their own camp. Net outcome could be few scapegoats. Its willy-nilly follow up proved public apprehension to the hilt.
The reaction of government was knee jerk. It took about a week time to contradict the story, not in one attempt but in three as if lost at confusion, aversion and hesitation. The pledge of Choudhry Nisar, Interior Minister to complete the inquiry within two to three days could only prove a bogey shout. Instead government vainly chose to do foot shoveling in a matter of breech of national security. Surrounded by mounting pressure, belatedly it decided to sack Pervaiz Rasheed, Information Minister, ostensibly for his alleged involvement in sordid affair but in reality, he continues to roam in same corridors. Much to its chagrin, this sacrificial trick also struck a naught to extract respite of some sort. Irresistibly, after lapse of one month, government announced an inquiry committee headed by a retired Justice Amir Raza Khan to complete the probe within a month.
With his nomination, government soiled its cloth further because of his close links with Sharif’s estate. He was also their nominee for caretaker Chief Minister Punjab in run up to 2013 general elections. Instead of one month, committee took almost six months to finalize the proceedings. Government was never seen anxious on inordinate delays rather readily bowed in countenance. Once asked about delay in finalization of inquiry, Interior Minister had the gall to link it for want of consensus in its findings. Such bizarre utterance by a Federal Minister could only be made in a country where accountability has become foreign and obsolete. He went scot-free. Dissenting notes are not unusual. These are not resolved to nil rather treated procedurally.
Dawn Leak was a serious matter of security breach but urgency, responsibility and care, remained conspicuously absent on the end of government. Self-seeking, Belated, reluctant and deceptive half measures marked its approach. Regrettably, persons suspected of involvement were not moved out of their high offices. This was an imperative as a first step. It is a rule in even ordinary cases worldwide. It speaks volume how and why government fell oblivious to a must do. Only and obvious answer is indifference for own sake.
Inescapably, government finally approved allegedly a doctored notification to punish wrong doers summarily under the signature of high functionary to PM who himself is an alleged suspect in the matter. Day chosen was weekend. It is no coincidence. It has implications of its own. Finding government in whirlwind of strong reaction, Choudhry Nisar hastily came up with a novel version of his own about orders and manufacturing of notification to blur the eyes of public. He had a trick up his sleeves. At the least, an open insult to common sense. Procedurally notification was issued correctly. This contained orders of competent authority, addressed to Interior Ministry. In return, as a subordinate ministry, it is to get orders implemented. For sake of academic discussion, if notification was to be issued by his ministry, what it could have made the difference. Notification had to be in accordance with orders of competent authority. He cannot deviate even an inch from its purview. It would be mockery if a new notification is issued to the contrary by Interior Ministry.
Two office bearers; Tariq Fathmi and Rao Tehseen have been condemned without being told about their misdeed. Only one page notification is out which contains actions to be taken, not detail of the wrong doings. Rest of the inquiry remains under wraps. Both refused to take raw treatment ungrudgingly. Non publication of the inquiry report is fast reinforcing the perception that government is trying to shield real and big characters in lieu of some small scapegoats. An apprehension also exists that they may be rewarded handsomely later as has been the practice in past. In its intensity and gravity, Dawn Leaks could easily supersede Memo gate scandal. Prudence demands a careful and saner handling of the issue but government continues to play foul. Government seems to prefer audacity in quest of something critical at stake particularly, at the time when nose of Panama Leaks is also closing in.
Dilly dally at the start. Stubbornness and belligerency at present in face of extreme pressure. Pack of tricks played in between. This all amply demonstrates that urgency, authenticity, transparency and impartiality were thrown overboard by the government in its bid to thwart the truth and insulate the real characters who authored the leak and pulled the strings. Overtime even an ordinary mind can smell the rat because it smells too rotten. This is what leak has finally leaked.
— The writer, retired Lt Col, is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.