• In a clip leaked online, Maryam, Pervaiz Rashid purportedly talk about journalists’ bias towards their party
• State minister claims clip exposes PML-N has ‘vast experience of blackmailing, controlling freedom of media’
• PML-N calls tapping phone calls a crime in violation of privacy right, demands probe
LAHORE: Yet another audio clip purportedly of PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz was leaked online on Tuesday wherein she can be heard discussing with former senator Pervaiz Rashid the supposed bias of certain journalists towards their party, sparking a debate on mainstream and social media regarding the conduct of political parties towards media organisations.
The leaked clip appears to be from October 2016 when then prime minister Nawaz Sharif had returned from a three-day trip to Azerbaijan. That was also the time when the Panama Papers were released and the senior Sharif was not enjoying friendly terms with the establishment.
Meanwhile, the leaked clip gave the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) another opportunity to pounce on the opposition PML-N, calling it a “modus operandi of the party of Sharifs to manage the media”.
The PML-N, on the other hand, expressed anger over the recording of telephone calls of their leaders and demanded an investigation into the matter.
“The real crime is secretly tapping telephone calls and private conversations in violation of the constitutional right to privacy and then leaking them without consent of the people involved,” PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb told Dawn. “The matter must be investigated and the culprits found guilty of intrusion of privacy given exemplary punishment in accordance with the law.”
The audio leak also came under discussion in the Senate where Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani decided to give a ruling later whether such a matter could be allowed to be debated in the upper house of parliament.
Social media was also abuzz with speculation as to who had been recording the conversations of politicians and leaking them at a particular time.
Security and political analyst Hasan Askari told Dawn that in this digital era, an accusing finger could not be pointed at any individual or institution for recording and leaking such audio and video clips. “Had it been the 1980s and ’90s, it would have been easy to understand who was recording such conversations. But in this modern era of technology where recording devices are easily available, no specific person(s) or agencies can be blamed with full confidence,” he remarked.
Mr Askari believed this audio leak would be damaging for the PML-N as its opponents would use it to gain political mileage. “Such audio and video clips are politically motivated and are used according to political requirements,” he added.
In the audio clip, Pervaiz Rashid can purportedly be heard saying: “In the Geo News programme ‘Scorecard’, Hasan Nisar has been included in it who only abuses us (PML-N) a lot. Mazhar Abbas, another participant of the show, spins things to make fun of us.” At this, Maryam Nawaz allegedly says Irshad Bhatti was also part of this programme who, Mr Rashid said, “talks very vulgarly [about PML-N leadership]”.
The duo also discusses that there was no one in the talk show who could speak in favour of the PML-N. “Hafeezullah Niazi, another participant, does not give our point of view but the way they abuse us he [Niazi] treats Imran Khan the same way. They have removed him and also discontinued his column,” Mr Rashid is alleged to have said.
Maryam Nawaz says she would first ask Hafeezullah Niazi the reason for his removal from the panel and then take up the matter with the Jang Group owner.
“It will become an imbalanced programme. If there was a check on Imran Khan, you have ended it and imposed barking dogs on us,” Mr Rashid allegedly says.
“Indeed, this is bias,” Ms Nawaz responds and towards the end of the clip she allegedly passes instructions that a pair of baskets that former premier Nawaz Sharif brought from Azerbaijan be sent to journalists Nusrat Javed and Rana Jawad.
Earlier, when Maryam Nawaz had openly owned at a press conference a previously leaked audio clip in which she was giving instructions regarding not releasing ads to certain media houses, the ruling PTI had declared that the PML-N leader’s admission was a clear proof of the party’s media management at the top level and hinted at taking her to court.
The latest clip is the third leaked audio purportedly of Maryam Nawaz within a few months. In one such leak, she was heard praising her “media management” skills for pouncing on the Imran Khan regime through two news channels. “Look at my media management. Geo News and Dunya News have ruined them.”
During her father Nawaz Sharif’s last government, she was heading the Strategic Media Communication Cell from the Prime Minister Office.
In the Senate on Tuesday, Leader of the House Dr Shahzad Waseem, on a point of order, said the Maryam-Pervaiz audio clip had exposed the real face of the PML-N towards the media.
“In the clip, it appears as if a teacher is telling a student about media management and even used words such as ‘barking dogs’ for media persons,” he said, adding that the PML-N’s narrative of media freedom was based on lifafa —a reference to alleged bribes offered to journalists.
“The PML-N is known for running media campaigns against its opponents and what it had done to the late Benazir Bhutto was known to everyone,” he maintained.
At this, PML-N Senator Irfan Siddiqui requested the chair to give a ruling whether a debate could be allowed on audio and video clips uploaded on social media. “If a debate is allowed then we have numerous such clips,” he declared.
Dr Wasim said that on a similar audio clip purportedly of former chief justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar, the PML-N leadership was seeking relief from the court.
Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani said he would later give a ruling in this regard.
State Minister for Information Farrukh Habib tweeted: “The PML-N has a vast experience of blackmailing and controlling freedom of media. The PML-N always kept the media under pressure to use it for its vested interests.”
He further said the alleged audio clip of Maryam Nawaz and Pervaiz Rashid had again exposed how the PML-N was playing tricks to control media freedom.
Published in Dawn, January 5th, 2022