ISLAMABAD - The committee constituted to investigate the source behind the October 6 Dawn newspaper story may fail to complete its job within the stipulated 30 days, as rules do not permit the investigators to quiz the concerned journalist or the newspaper staff, according to officials of the Press Council of Pakistan (PCP).

“The government probe committee should focus on the person who had leaked the information instead of asking the reporter to tell the source of information,” Dr M Salahud Din Mengal, the chairman of the Press Council of Pakistan, said in an interview with The Nation.

He said that Dawn had not launched any complaint with the PCP so far regarding government probe committee asking the reporter to appear before it.

According to Section 14 of the PCP Ordinance 2002,”The council or the commission shall not compel a publisher, an editor or a journalist to reveal the source of information.”

Last week, the PCP discussed the formation of a probe committee announced by the federal government over the publication of the Dawn article, which had pointed to grave differences between the civilians and the military leadership.

The council strongly urged the government not to move against the newspaper and its journalist, stressing that the matter fell within their jurisdiction.

It further noted that it was unfortunate that neither the government nor any of its departments referred the issue to the PCP.

Dr Mengal said in the interview that it was the fundamental duty of the PCP to protect the journalists.

He said that meeting of the PCP was supposed to take place after every three months and a meeting was already scheduled on November 2.

However, the meeting got delayed due to the busy schedule of the members and was held on November 10.

An official of the press council, while speaking on condition of anonymity said that the government did not even bother to consult the PCP before announcing the formation of a probe committee.

“The government’s inquiry committee cannot punish the newspaper and staff directly,” the official said.   

President Mamnoon Hussain appointed Dr Salahud Din Mengal as Chairman PCP after due process in April.

Earlier, Dr Mengal had served as advocate general Balochistan from 2002 to 2011 and as a lecturer at Balochistan University Law College in 2012 from where he completed his PhD.

According to the law, chairperson PCP should have the qualification equal to be a qualified judge of Supreme Court.

Member of PCP Mujeebur Rehman Shami told The Nation that it was the responsibility of the council to investigate the content of the newspaper on the complaint of government, public or any individual as per PCP Code of Ethics.

 “The PCP is a legal forum, and it has the privilege to investigate the content of any news item, but the government ignored it in the case of Dawn story,” Shami said.

He also stated that the government inquiry committee could not ask the sources of news from newspaper or staff of the paper.

“If Dawn wants to tell the source of news voluntarily than the PCP has no issue, but the government cannot force the same,” Shami said.