Pakistan looking at coup? PM Nawaz Sharif removes key aide after 'Dawn Leak'; Army rejects dismissal

Arkadev Ghoshal
Pakistan looking at coup? PM Nawaz Sharif removes key aide after 'Dawn Leak'; Army rejects dismissal

Trouble seems to be brewing between Pakistan's government and its Army following the removal of Syed Tariq Fatemi, special assistant to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on foreign affairs over his alleged role in the newspaper story that came to be known as 'Dawn Leak.'

Subsequently, the Pakistani Army's media arm, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), rejected the notification. ISPR Director General Major Asif Ghafoor said in a tweet: "Notification on Dawn Leak is incomplete and not in line with recommendations by the Inquiry Board. Notification is rejected."

What is the Dawn Leak?

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Pakistani newspaper Dawn had, on October 6 last year, published a story with the headline: "Act against militants or face international isolation, civilians tell military." The story was aptly explained in the headline: The Nawaz Sharif government was apparently ordering the military to act on terrorists who were using Pakistani soil for their terrorist activities.

That report, whose meat purportedly came from within the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), was seen as an embarrassment by the Pakistani military. That continued even after the PMO and Nawaz Sharif himself categorically denied having issued any such orders to the military.

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Dawn Leak aftermath and coup fears

After the report — and apparently under pressure from the military — the Pakistani government removed Pervaiz Rasheed from the post of information minister. It also set up an inquiry committee to look into how the information — which Dawn claimed had been "verified, cross-checked and fact-checked" — ended up with the newspaper.

Now, with Sharif saying Fatemi would be removed and the Army, through ISPR, rejecting that move, fears have been raised — albeit in no big way — that Pakistan could be looking at yet another coup. Pakistan has been no stranger to military takeovers, which it has seen in 1958, 1977 and most recently in 1999. With the democratically elected government and the Army at loggerheads again, there are fears now that history can be repeated.