Following the release of a set of audio clippings between Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and other key decision-makers in the government only three days ago, another controversial audio leak surfaced on Wednesday, this time purportedly featuring former premier Imran Khan.
The clip making rounds on social media seemingly features a conversation between Imran and his former principal secretary, Azam Khan, about a cipher that the PTI chief has for long presented as evidence of ‘a foreign conspiracy’ to oust him from the top office.
The development came as a meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC) was scheduled to take place to ascertain how informal conversations in the country’s highest office — the Prime Minister’s Office — were leaked.
In the audio clip, a voice, believed to be Imran’s, is heard saying: “We only have to play on this. We don’t have to name [any country]. We only have to play with this, that this date was [decided] before.
“The new thing that will emerge is that the letter …”
Here, the second voice, believed to be of Azam, is heard, suggesting holding a meeting on the cipher.
“See, if you recall, in that the ambassador has written in the end to [send] a demarche. Even if the demarche is not to be sent, as I have thought a lot about it at night — you said they raised it — I thought about how to cover all this.
“Let’s hold a meeting with Shah Mahmood Qureshi (who was the foreign minister in Imran’s government) and the foreign secretary. Shah Mahmood Qureshi will read out that letter and whatever he reads out will be converted into a copy. I will then make minutes [out of it and say] that the foreign secretary has prepared this.
“But its (cipher’s) analysis will have to be conducted here. We will carry out the analysis and convert it into minutes as we want so that it becomes [part of] the office record.”
He elaborates that the analysis would conclude that “it is a threat. It is called a threat in diplomatic language”.
The man, believed to Azam, adds that “minutes are in my hands … we will draft the minutes”.
Here, the person on the other end, purportedly Imran, is heard asking who would be called to the meeting. “Shah Mahmood, you, me and Sohail?”
Just these, the other person says.
“We will do it tomorrow,” the person believed to be Imran replies.
In turn, the voice, supposedly belonging to Azam, is heard explaining that following this plan, “things will become a part of the record.
“Consider that they are the consulate for the state. When he will read it out, I will easily copy it and it will be on record that this has happened.”
Moreover, he suggests that “you (supposedly Imran) call the foreign secretary so that it doesn’t remain political and becomes a part of the bureaucratic record”.
To this, the man believed to be Imran points out that an ambassador has written the cipher, implying that it should already be a part of the bureaucratic record since it has been written by an envoy.
“But we don’t have a copy of it. How did they release it?” the person on the other end replies.
Journalist Mazhar Abbas, while speaking to Geo News, mentioned that the conversation likely “recorded” when Imran was the prime minister. In this connection, he also mentioned other audio clips that have surfaced in recent days and linked those to the safety of the PMO.
PTI leaders Fawad Chaudhry and Hammad Azhar addressed the latest leaks but did not confirm or deny its veracity.
Chaudhry said in a tweet that the only thing that the new leak confirmed was that “efforts were made to hide the US cipher from the [former] prime minister”.
Meanwhile, Azhar called for releasing the cipher so that the people of Pakistan could decide whether it was a “conspiracy or even more than that”.
Responding to a tweet criticising Imran over the clip, Azhar said: “When Imran Khan was PM, his govt was removed following the exact same script as was given in the cipher. Let that sink in.”
‘Imran, other PTI leaders should appear before probe body’
Meanwhile, PML-N leader Azma Bukhari demanded that Imran and other PTI leaders should be called to appear before the committee that PM Shehbaz announced would be constituted to probe the audio leaks linked to the Prime Minister’s Office.
Addressing a press conference in Lahore, she demanded from PM Shehbaz that PTI leaders Chaudhry and Asad Umar should also be called to appear before the committee.
Referring to Imran’s address at Government College University in Lahore on Monday, where he had said more audio recordings would surface in the coming days, Bukhari said the PTI chief should be questioned by the yet-to-be-constituted committee on where he was getting this information.
Similarly, Umar and Chaudhry, who claimed that the recordings were up for sale on the web, should also be asked about the source of this information, she said.
“I have hope Imran Khan will have the guts to come outside himself and give an answer why … he lied to the nation,” he said.
Leaks reveal massive breach in security at PM Office
What began as an alleged and potentially embarrassing audio leak seems to have turned into an all-out national security incident as a slew of audio recordings of conversations between key government figures — including Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz and some members of the federal cabinet — were released over the weekend.
The content of the recordings appear to be informal conversations in the PM Office — as opposed to recorded phone conversations.
On Saturday, a recording of PM Shehbaz surfaced where he was discussing with an unidentified official the possibility of facilitating the import of Indian machinery for a power project that was a concern of Maryam Nawaz Sharif’s son-in-law, Raheel.
On Sunday, further recordings surfaced, which were shared on social media by several PTI leaders, concerning former finance minister Miftah Ismail and the resignations of PTI lawmakers from the National Assembly.
One clip purportedly features a conversation between PML-N Vice President Maryam and the premier about Miftah, wherein a voice thought to belong to the former says he “doesn’t know what he is doing” and wishes for the return of PML-N stalwart Ishaq Dar.
A second clip allegedly concerns a conversation between the prime minister, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah and Ayaz Sadiq about the resignations of PTI lawmakers from the National Assembly.
A third clip purportedly features a conversation between Maryam Nawaz and PM Shehbaz regarding the return of former army chief retired Gen Pervez Musharraf.
PM Shehbaz on Tuesday termed the surfacing of audio leaks a “very serious lapse” and announced that a high-level committee would be constituted to probe the matter.