ISLAMABAD: As more and more audio and video recordings of top politicians and their family members continue to surface, sparking a debate on the right to privacy, the country’s interior minister on Wednesday defended the practice of listening in on conversations of certain individuals in a bid to “expose criminal activities”.

The comments by Rana Sanaullah came days after an audio leak being attributed to the former first lady, Bushra Bibi, and PTI social media head Dr Arslan Khalid started doing the rounds on social media. In the clip, Bushra Bibi could be heard allegedly telling Dr Khalid that Imran had asked him to run trends on social media declaring political opponents as “traitors”.

Following the leak, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leaders had termed the clip baseless and doctored, whereas the government used it to criticise the former ruling party.

Speaking at a press conference, Mr Sanaullah claimed that any recording, audio or video, meant to expose a crime was not illegal, unless the same was used to blackmail someone.

Minister defends practice of eavesdropping, says leaked clip proves Bushra Bibi’s ‘involvement in a crime’

“Can a dacoit who looted a bank protest over his video recording on the grounds that he did not know about cameras and his fundamental right has been breached,” Mr San­a­ullah asked, adding that the clip “proved that Bushra Bibi was involved in a crime”.

“A lady of an important status is linking the entire opposition and the nation with treason over a letter, which they [PTI] claimed came from America. She is doing it to save herself from corruption,” he said, asserting that questions regarding legality could not be raised regarding the leaked clip.

But if PTI claimed that the recording was false then Imran Khan should straight up refute it and demand a forensic examination of the clip, Mr Sanaullah said, challenging the former prime minister. “Instead, his party members say that the content of the audio doesn’t matter. If the recording is actually fictitious then they should demand an investigation to prove who is right and who is not.”

Chiding Imran Khan over his threat to ‘tell-all’ if he was pushed against the wall, the PML-N leader said Mr Khan needed to first answer questions about his alleged corruption. He said the PTI chief needed to explain why he and his wife allegedly accepted Rs5 billion and hundreds of kanal of land from Bahria Town for providing Malik Riaz protection in Rs 50 billion money laundering case. He claimed Bahria Town donated 458 kanal to Al-Qadir Trust, and the trustees include Khan and his spouse.

He said the PTI chief should also explain his position regarding the sale of precious gifted watches for Rs150 to 200 million, and putting 80 per cent of the proceeds in his pocket. The minister said Imran Khan should also tell on whose behest he had staged the 2014 sit-in.

Meanwhile, responding to Imran’s video speech from the night before, Sanaullah said that the PTI chief “should be ashamed of himself” for making claims that he was being harassed. “Have you not been doing this to your opponents for [the past] three-and-a-half years? No such thing is being done to you,” he claimed. “Is asking you about your assets and corruption harassing you?”

Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2022

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