Fact-check: Imran Khan falsely claims PM consulting Nawaz Sharif is 'violation of Official Secrets Act'

Senior lawyer Salahuddin Ahmed says prime minister consulting someone is not violation of the Act

PTI Chairman Imran Khan claims that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has violated the Official Secrets Act 1923 by consulting his brother and party leader, Nawaz Sharif, over the appointment of a new chief of Pakistan’s military.

This allegation is incorrect.

Claim

On November 14, Khan, a former prime minister, spoke at a political rally in Mandi Bahauddin, Punjab, through a video link.

“Shehbaz Sharif, who is the prime minister, does he not know how sensitive the issue of the army chief’s selection is? How can he consult an absconder [Nawaz Sharif]?” asks Khan, from his residence in Lahore, “This is a violation of the Official Secrets Act. On this, I am consulting my lawyers and we will take action.”

The video has received over 9,000 views on PTI’s official account to date and has been shared by multiple social media accounts.

Fact

The claim is false, as there is no restriction in the Official Secrets Act.

Salahuddin Ahmed, a senior lawyer in Karachi, told Geo Fact Check that the prime minister consulting someone is not a violation of the Act.

“What is the secret information being shared here?” he asks, “If some classified information is being shared then that is different. But if he is only consulting [Nawaz Sharif] and taking his opinion, prime ministers do that before appointing [a military chief].”

Abuzar Salman Khan Niazi, a senior lawyer in Islamabad, told Geo Fact Check via messages that it was the sole prerogative of the prime minister under Article 243 of the constitution to give advice to the president on the appointment of a chief of army staff.

“The president is bound to act on the advice of the prime minister,” Niazi wrote, “He cannot refuse it. If he [the prime minister] is consulting someone it is not a requirement under the law, but I don’t see a bar either. However, morally it is wrong.”

Geo Fact Check also obtained a copy of the Official Secrets Act 1923 from the website of the ministry of law and justice. There is no such restriction listed in the Act that prevents a prime minister from consulting his party leader or a declared absconder.

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