Dismissed minister breaks his silence

ISLAMABAD: After Tariq Fatemi and Rao Tehseen, the two officers removed by the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in the wake of an inquiry into the publication of a news report about a meeting between civilian and military leaders in Dawn, former information minister Pervaiz Rashid has also spoken out against his dismissal from the federal cabinet.

The first casualty of the fallout from the publication of the story, Mr Rashid had kept mum about the decision to withdraw his portfolio since he was shown the door on Oct 29 last year.

However, after both the prime minister’s former special assistant on foreign affairs and the principal information officer reacted to their removal in the light of the inquiry report, Mr Rashid also broke his silence.

Considered one of the prime minister’s most trustworthy aides, Mr Rashid also rejected the government’s decision to remove him.

Speaking to reporters after a ceremony in Islamabad, he gave the impression he was not satisfied with the way he was treated for not being able to block the publication of the news item. “It is not the responsibility of the information minister to block [the publication of] news.”

“If the duty of an information minister is to stop the publication of stories, then this should be taught to journalism students at the university level,” the former minister said, sarcastically.

“If the state desires information ministers who can stop news stories, they should teach a course in universities titled ‘How to Stop News’,” he quipped.

But the former information minister was reluctant to comment on the inquiry report, asking how he could comment on a report that had not been issued.

He said he had discharged his duties as information minister within the ambit of the Constitution. “I did what could be done in a democratic society,” he added.

“In a democratic society, you inform reporters of the factual situation and give them your point of view, but you cannot force them [to withdraw the story],” he said, adding: “I gave my point of view to the reporter when I was asked for it”.

Before Mr Rashid, the PM’s former special assistant had also rejected allegations about his alleged role in leaking information to Dawn. In a farewell letter, Mr Fatemi categorically said: “I reject recent allegations, insinuations and innuendos. Such suggestions are particularly hurtful to someone who has served Pakistan for nearly five decades with honour and dignity.”

Recently-removed Rao Tehseen was also not happy with his dismissal and told reporters earlier this week that he would challenge the recommendations of the inquiry commission in court.

Mr Tehseen said he was waiting for the inquiry commission report and that his lawyer had asked for a classified copy of the report.

“How could the commission recommend action against me without identifying those responsible for the leak?” he asked.


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