NationalVolume 12 Issue # 20

Celebrating humiliations

The Dawnleaks issue has been resolved but it has left many questions unanswered. The government, on its part, claims to have established civilian authority and forced the establishment to back off. The powers-thatbe adopted a soft approach to support democracy in the country. However, both sides have been bruised in the process. According to experts, the findings of the commission to probe the leaks will be leaked soon. The government is celebrating the “victory” because Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s daughter has been given a clean chit in the probe after she was accused by the opposition of being the main character behind the issue. However, the image of the country and the army has been maligned by the leak, which was its main objective. Whether the leak was fake or planted, it has advanced the narrative of India against Pakistan. All government ministers are rejoicing at the “vindication” of Maryam Nawaz, but nobody is willing to vindicate Pakistan and its armed forces, which were targeted in the leak. When the military said it had resolved the dispute with the government and withdrew a tweet in which it rejected the inquiry commission’s report, it provided an opportunity to the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and social media to criticize the “retreat.” Social media called it a “secret deal” between two old partners. Some questioned whether the army could have adopted the same approach if the incident had occurred in a government, other than the PML-N’s.

Addressing a press conference, PPP Punjab President Qamar Zaman Qaira alleged both sides had made a secret deal on the issue as a sudden “consensus” was reached after initial disagreement. PPP leader Nabeel Gabol claimed an audio clip was played before the commission in which Maryam Nawaz was heard asking the newspaper editor for the publication of the news. “She told the editor that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif wanted its publication. However, the editor said he would have to seek the permission of the owner,” he told a TV channel. A “leaked” story in the Dawn newspaper about Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif “confronting” the army for allegedly supporting Jihadi groups remained a hot topic of discussion for months, even in the army. Despite several explanations, it emerged that the fake report was fed by the government to gain sympathies of the world powers to wriggle out of the Model Town tragedy and Panama Leaks. The government issued several rebuttals, but its main emphasis was that the story was true. However, it was a fact that the writer and the newspaper were carefully selected to make a maximum international impact to malign the army at a time when it was fighting a decisive war on terrorism in the country.

It also aimed to corroborate Indian allegations that Pakistan was backing and raising Jihadists to fight a proxy war against it, at a time when it perpetrated unprecedented atrocities in Occupied Kashmir. It is a classic example how Pakistani politicians can sacrifice national interests for their personal gains. According to sources, the English language newspaper was chosen carefully after long deliberation. First, a media group, which is known for its staunch opposition to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and blind support to the government, was contacted by the PM’s House for the publication of the fabricated news. However, its owner refused on the grounds that his group was still reeling from confrontation with the army after an attack on its anchor few years ago and he could not afford to offend the army anymore. He also told people, who were interested in publishing the story, that his group had already lost credibility after unreasonably siding with the PML-N government and suggested the name of the other newspaper, which was the best for the purpose as it was more credible and its report would be highlighted by Indian and international media. The purpose was served as the report was highlighted by the Indian and world media.

Citing the news item, the Telegraph said Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had accused his military chiefs of leading the country into diplomatic isolation by failing to act against terror groups. “He blamed military intelligence for hampering efforts to tackle Pakistan-based terror groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-i-Mohmmad, which have masterminded terror attacks in India, and the Haqqani network, which operates in Afghanistan. Nawaz Sharif also indicated he may reopen a longstalled investigation into the Mumbai 2008 terror attack, which was carried out by Lashkar-e-Taiba,” it reported. The next day after the leak, the same newspaper carried another story on its front page to advance the government agenda to malign the army. It quoted a ruling party legislator as saying; “Which eggs is Jammat-ud- Dawa (JuD) Chief Hafiz Saeed laying for us that we are nurturing him?” During a meeting of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, PML-N lawmaker Rana Muhammad Afzal said, “The efficacy of our foreign policy speaks for itself when we couldn’t curtail Hafiz Saeed. India has built such a case against us about the JuD chief that during the meeting on Kashmir, foreign delegates mention him as the bone of contention between Pakistan and India,” he maintained. He recalled a trip to France, where he had been tasked with explaining the worsening situation in Kashmir, and said that the name of Hafiz Saeed was brought up time and again by foreign delegates. In a way, he was backing the Indian and US allegations that the Pakistan army was protecting militants to advance its agenda in India and Afghanistan.

The government took at least seven months to complete the investigations. It was also not willing to act upon the recommendations of the commission. Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi and Former Principal Infomation Officer (PIO) Rao Tehseen were sacked. Earlier, Information Minister Pervez Rashid was forced to resign. They were accused of not being able to stop the fake news. The question is; how could they stop it? If they had not given the points to the newspaper, who was the actual mastermind? If it was not a security breach, why were the three officials punished? It appears the establishment has accepted the three “sacrifices” for the sake of democracy as an Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) statement said the Pakistani army “reiterates its firm commitment and continued resolve to uphold the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and support the democratic process.” It avoided confrontation with the government, which was bent upon seeking “political martyrdom.” People, who were expecting martial law, were disappointed but the establishment, despite being all powerful, chose to side with democracy for the greater national interest.