ISLAMABAD: The recording of a phone call purported to be a conversation between PTI Chairman Imran Khan and a key party legislator, where Mr Khan appears happy with the news that PTV’s broadcasts had been shut down in August of last year, remained the top news story across all private news channels on Friday.
Although both the PTI chairman and the MNA in question, Dr Arif Alvi, have denied the content of the conversation, the government’s spin doctors have been following the development feverishly.
The media wing of the Prime Minister’s Office even shared a list of cell phone numbers of ruling party lawmakers who could be contacted for input on the issue of the leaked tape.
Take a look: PTI, PAT protesters storm PTV headquarters
Believing in the veracity of the taped conversation, Information Minister Pervez Rashid criticised the PTI chairman for not effectively responding to the allegations.
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar took a jibe at the beleaguered party, saying: “It seems the PTI chairman is disturbed by the leaked tape. The government, however, is sticking to its agreement on the judicial commission.”
PTI maintains tape doctored; PML-N’s ‘enthusiastic’ reaction leaves many puzzled
He was responding to Mr Khan’s presser in Lahore earlier in the day, where he had warned the government against backing out of its accord on the commission.
Talking to media in Lahore, Imran Khan said, “I haven’t listened to the tape, but I can say with surety whatever it’s about. It will not have me ordering someone’s murder or receiving extortion money.”
Dr Alvi, on the other hand, told a TV channel that the recording was concocted because he had only informed Mr Khan about the attack on PTV headquarters and asked for his immediate statement condemning the act.
He also tweeted that he believed the recording had been doctored, adding that recording private conversations was an illegal act.
“In contrast, the released tape with our voices gives an impression that he was happy with the occupation of PTV and wanted the state broadcaster to remain shut.” According to the tape, the PTI chairman directed Dr Alvi to get in touch with MQM leader Altaf Hussain in London to deliver on his promise of support for the PTI’s demand for the PM’s resignation.
Notwithstanding the veracity of the recording, the timing of its release has raised many eyebrows.
The MQM is currently under pressure due to the ongoing law and order operation in Karachi. The PM has already advised the president to grant a one month extension to Saulat Mirza, a death row convict who accused MQM chief Altaf Hussain and other party leaders of patronising target killers.
The proposed judicial commission constituted to investigate the last general election is still to be formally constituted, though the PTI and the government have finally agreed on it.
Asked to comment on the recording, a political observer said with so much happening on the political front, one couldn’t say with any certainty what the latest controversy was all about. However, he said: “I’m surprised by the feverish response from the government.”
He added that on one side the government claimed that it wanted political stability in the country by constituting judicial commission, but was busy ruffling the PTI’s feathers at the same time.
A second political commentator said he could clearly see the rising political temperature. “The tape scandal is just a prelude to a volatile political situation that the country is going to witness in the coming weeks and months.”
Published in Dawn, March 28th, 2015