LAHORE: An audio recording of an alleged conversation, purportedly between Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and a government official, was leaked on social media on Saturday, with Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leaders claiming that it shows the PM putting his family’s business interests before those of the state.

In the over two-minute-long audio clip, shared by PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry on his Twitter account on Saturday, a voice — said to be that of PM Sharif — can be heard saying that Maryam Nawaz Sharif had asked him to facilitate her son-in-law Raheel with the import of machinery for a power plant, from India.

“If we do so, we will get a lot of flak when this matter goes to the ECC and cabinet,” the official can be heard saying.

At this, the voice thought to belong to the PM says: “The son-in-law is very dear to Maryam Nawaz. Tell her very logically about this and then I will talk to her.”

The same voice also agrees with the perception that this would be bad for optics and may cause a lot of trouble, politically.

It is worth noting that Maryam Nawaz’s daughter Mehrunnisa married industrialist Chaudhry Munir’s son Raheel in December 2015. The wedding was notable because it was also attended by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Read: Modi's gift to Nawaz ─ a pink turban on the occasion of his granddaughter's wedding

The other voice in the clip then brings up another matter related to the housing society belonging to Ms Nawaz’s son-in-law.

He says a grid station had to be installed in the Ittehad Park Housing Society, which the PM said should be dealt with in a “national way”.

The government official also suggested that former finance minister Ishaq Dar should be engaged to deal with this matter, who could handle it in a better way.

At the end of the purported audio, there is a mention of former Justice Maqbool Baqir, whose name was being considered as the next head of the National Accountability Bureau. The official is heard conveying to the premier the ‘suggestion’ of two media persons, asking him not to consider the former judge for the slot of NAB chairman, in view of their experience with former NAB chief Javed Iqbal, who was also a retired judge appointed by the PML-N government.

This exchange helps to put a timeline on the purported audio, as the matter of the NAB chief’s appointment was in the news around two months ago. Subsequently, former Intelligence Bureau (IB) chief Aftab Sultan was picked to lead the anti-corruption watchdog.

Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb and Maryam Nawaz Sharif’s aide Zeeshan Malik did not respond to requests for comment, despite several attempts.

Published in Dawn, September 25th, 2022

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