Pakistan minister removed over news leak that angered army

Pakistan Information Minister Pervez Rasheed. (AFP file photo)
Updated 29 October 2016

Pakistan minister removed over news leak that angered army

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid has been removed from office over a newspaper leak that sparked a rift between the army and the government earlier this month, the prime minister’s office said on Saturday.
Two sources from the Information Ministry told Reuters that Rashid had stepped down from his post until an inquiry confirms whether he was the source for a newspaper article detailing the discussion in a top-level national security meeting.
“Evidence available so far points to a lapse on part of the Information Minister, who has been directed to step down from office to enable holding of an independent and detailed inquiry,” a statement by the prime minister’s office said.
The inquiry is seeking to identify the source of the Dawn article, published on Oct. 6, which gave an account of a tense, high-level security meeting held between military and government officials.
Government and diplomatic sources say the Dawn article soured relations between Sharif’s ruling PML-N party and the military, with army officials blaming PML-N for the leak and demanding the source be punished.
Relations between the civilian government and military have often been strained in a country where several prime ministers, including Sharif himself, have been ousted in coups.
Quoting anonymous sources, the Dawn article said civilian government officials called for the military not to interfere if civilian authorities tried to arrest members of anti-India militant groups such as Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba.
India has long accused Pakistan’s military of sponsoring these groups to foment unrest in Indian-administered Kashmir and elsewhere, a charge that Pakistan denies.
The office of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has repeatedly rejected the article as inaccurate and the journalist who wrote it was at one point temporarily barred from leaving the country.
On Saturday, the prime minister’s office said the Oct. 6 story was “planted” and termed it a “breach of national security.” Dawn newspaper editors have stood by the story and its author.
The committee being set up to investigate the leak includes senior officers from the ISI, the most powerful intelligence agency in Pakistan. Military Intelligence and Intelligence Bureau agencies will be in involved in the committee.
The military on Friday said top PML-N leaders — including finance minister, interior minister, and Sharif’s brother — met the army chief Raheel Sharif, who is not related to the prime minister, to discuss the Dawn leak. The head of ISI was also present
Rashid did not respond to Reuters requests for comment. The military could not be immediately reached for comment.


Indonesia allocates $1 million to global coalition for COVID-19 vaccine

Updated 25 November 2020

Indonesia allocates $1 million to global coalition for COVID-19 vaccine

  • Indonesia has also been keeping with its commitment to the G20 Action Plan in response to the COVID-19 pandemic by lifting some of its export restrictions on PPE

JAKARTA: Indonesia on Tuesday committed $1 million to the Oslo-based Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to develop vaccines for various diseases that could develop into pandemics.

Indonesia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi and CEPI officials made the announcement during a virtual signing of the bilateral contribution agreement earlier today. 

In her remarks, Marsudi said that recent news on the progress of vaccine development was very encouraging, but that a lot more remains to be done.

“Indonesia chooses to walk the talk and contribute within its capacity to vaccine multilateralism to protect its people and the world,” she said.

She added that the agreement enables Indonesia to make a concrete contribution to a vaccine for all, reiterating the nation’s position since the beginning of the pandemic — that all countries deserve fair, affordable and equitable access to a vaccine for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“Without it, developing and less developed countries are at risk of being left behind,” Marsudi said.

Richard J. Hatchett, CEO of CEPI, said in his remarks that the coalition was “delighted to welcome Indonesia” to its ranks. 

“We can work together to support our shared goals to develop a safe, effective and globally accessible vaccine,” he said.

Hatchett added that since the CEPI had invested in nine of the world’s COVID-19 vaccine candidates, with eight of them entering clinical trials out of 48 globally, two of them had reported positive outcomes in the third phase of clinical trials.  

“But we must remember, it is not a vaccine that saves lives but vaccination. A vaccine must be administered to have any value at all,” Hatchett said, adding that the challenge ahead would be the manufacturing and delivery of those vaccines, which would require an unprecedented global effort.

During a recent press conference with the Ministry of Trade, Yose Rizal Damuri, Indonesia’s G20 scholar and a senior economist at the Jakarta-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies said that “the battleground has shifted to vaccines” now that Indonesia and other countries had loosened restrictions on personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical devices.

State-owned vaccine manufacturer Bio Farma has boosted its production capacity to produce up to 250 million doses next year of a potential COVID-19 vaccine developed by Chinese company Sinovac, whose vaccine is undergoing the third phase of its clinical trial in Bandung, and another vaccine being jointly developed by Abu Dhabi-based G42 Healthcare and China’s vaccine manufacturer Sinopharm.

In his remarks during a G20 trade ministers’ meeting on Sept. 22, Minister of Trade Agus Suparmanto said that easy access and affordability of medical supplies, especially a vaccine, was crucial to the group’s joint efforts to combat the pandemic.

“The G20 should seek to prevent irresponsible commercialization practices in pandemic times by supporting the flexibility to exercise intellectual property rights under international agreements,” the minister said.

Indonesia has also been keeping with its commitment to the G20 Action Plan in response to the COVID-19 pandemic by lifting some of its export restrictions on PPE and other goods related to measures in controlling disease, a trade ministry official said.

Indonesia has also started exporting these goods to fellow economic bloc members, Ministry of Trade’s Director-General for International Trade Negotiations Iman Pambagyo said, responding to a question from Arab News in a virtual press conference. 

“We have been gradually loosening restrictions and exporting goods to South Korea, while also maintaining a sufficient domestic supply,” Pambagyo said.

“We make adjustments on export restrictions from time to time as we prioritize our fellow citizens,” he added.

Suparmanto, for his part, reiterated Indonesia’s commitment to several G20 members’ short and long-term collective actions in the trade and investment sector to mitigate the impact of the pandemic, maintain an open market and take the necessary steps to facilitate trade.

“Indonesia has issued policies in line with the G20 Action Plan, such as removing a number of export and import barriers,” he said.