ISLAMABAD: An audio recording of an alleged telephonic conversation between Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Asif Ali Zardari and property tycoon Malik Riaz was widely reported by the electronic media and shared on social media on Saturday, where the latter could be heard telling Mr Zardari that Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan was desperate for a “patch-up” with him.
The leaked audio recording — in which the voices were believed by many to be of Mr Zardari and Mr Riaz — came to the fore two days after Mr Khan abruptly ended a planned anti-government sit-in in Islamabad amid speculation of behind-the-scenes contacts between him and the establishment.
Read more: How Imran’s march came to an abrupt end
Though the PTI immediately declared the audio “fake”, the PPP leadership remained non-committal, while a number of party leaders said it “seemed genuine”.
In the almost 32-second conversation, the date and time of which is not confirmed, Mr Riaz can be heard telling Mr Zardari that Mr Khan had been sending him messages asking him to help “patch up” with the PPP.
“Today, he (Imran Khan) has sent too many messages,” the voice believed to be of Mr Riaz told the former president, who in response says: “It is impossible now.”
“It’s okay. I just wanted to bring this into your notice,” said Mr Riaz’s alleged voice.
When contacted, a number of senior PPP leaders said they were not aware of the timing of the purported phone call, but they could confirm that Malik Riaz had been playing the role of a mediator after submission of the no-confidence resolution against Imran Khan in the National Assembly by the then opposition parties.
Another PPP leader, while claiming that the alleged audio seemed genuine, questioned who was tapping the telephones of the former president. He said it was a serious matter and should be probed.
Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz during his address at a public meeting in Bahawalpur also referred to the leaked conversation and claimed it had been proved how Imran Khan was begging for a deal.
On the other hand, PTI spokesman Dr Shahbaz Gill through his Twitter handle termed the audio recording a “lie” and “far from reality”.
“A businessman and an opponent of Imran Khan are talking about things that have nothing to do with reality. Imran Khan does not require an NRO. Instead, all these people kept seeking an NRO (from Imran) which they didn’t get,” tweeted Mr Gill minutes after the alleged conversation surfaced. He further added: “This story is a lie…. at least, a strong script should have been written.”
Until the filing of this report, there was no official word from Malik Riaz over the development.
Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2022