THE OFFICIALS SECRET ACT

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By: Lt. Gen. (r) Tariq Khan

when diplomats threaten states, then such norms are inconsequential; secondly who says that the PM is not authorized to communicate the matter to his own public about a threat to national security? Who decides or interprets what is and what is not authorized?

The Official Secret Act is a document that was initiated in 1923, adopted later by Pakistan and amended from time to time. One recalls, that from the time one was commissioned as an officer in the Armed Forces, the normal SOP required every officer to read the document and to certify it every month that he had done so. Thus unless some new amendment has taken place all of a sudden, I do not recall the document stating anywhere that a foreign communication received in any capacity cannot be made public if it was in the interest of the public or the State or otherwise.

The present PM has demonstrated his popularity in no uncertain terms and as such that is not in question at this point in time. What remains a matter of concern for the nation is that, despite the publically validated popularity, the PM is being ousted on a technicality established within the Parliament through dubious means based upon some politicians who have decided to switch loyalties. The point is, as is alleged, that these turn-coats were influenced or urged to do so based upon a foreign communication designed and intended on harming the State of Pakistan.

If this be true, then the PM, who is not a simple clerk or a peon, cannot be simply silenced on the basis of a misquoted reference form the Act. He is very much empowered and entitled to make the document public without prejudice to the Official Secret Act as I know it to be. After all he is the PM. If anyone has any objection to what I am saying, then he or she should refer to that portion of the Act which debars a PM from making the content and substance of this foreign letter public. The misquoting of the Act that is related to section 5 of the constitution which states ‘no document in possession of a public office holder can be disclosed to a person other than to whom he is authorized to communicate it to’, is poppy cock. First it is being read out of context and is only relevant to internal matters of the State, it does not apply to communication between a foreign country and the State. If such information is disclosed it is at best a violation of diplomatic norms but when diplomats threaten states, then such norms are inconsequential; secondly who says that the PM is not authorized to communicate the matter to his own public about a threat to national security? Who decides or interprets what is and what is not authorized?

On the other hand, the Official Secret Act does refer to people conspiring with foreign players or external agencies against the State in no uncertain terms. It stipulates clearly that they be tried for treason. Article 5 mentions Loyalty to the State and Article 6 defines treason. Even if this is an accusation, but having been made by the PM of the State, it must be thoroughly investigated before any Vote of Confidence is taken.  Why are these facts being distorted and why are people being allowed to operate against the State openly and with impunity? Who is responsible for it? Why has the Government not acted as yet?