Earlier in the day, a clip was making rounds on social media featuring a conversation between what is believed to be 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.
In the audio clip, Imran 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 …”
The PTI Twitter account subsequently shared a video of reporters questioning Imran regarding the matter, to which he said: “The [US] cipher should leak so it comes out before everyone and everyone can know how big a foreign conspiracy happened”.
He also alleged that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s government was behind the audio leak, adding that it was “very good that they have done so”.
Questioned on a part of the clip where Imran said he would “play with the cable”, the PTI chief said: “I have not even begun to play with it. Now they will expose it so we will play with it.”
His comments come as party leaders characterised the latest leaks as evidence the cipher was real.
An accompanying hashtag — “cipher aik haqeeqat hai (the cipher is a reality)” — was the top trend on Pakistani Twitter, racking nearly 100,000 retweets at the time of this report.
Forensic audit of leaks to be conducted, says Sanaullah
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said that the government would ensure that a forensic audit of the purported leaks was conducted to “expose Imran’s true face to the nation”.
“You [Imran] went to the Supreme Court for the inquiry of the cipher. Now we will accept the request and concede that a forensic audit [of the audio] is conducted,” he said at a press conference in Islamabad later in the day.
Sanaullah asserted that this time, the PTI chief would have to respond to the purported audio because the “voice in it is his”.
For the past six months, he said, everyone has been listening about the foreign conspiracy narrative and how the incumbent government was brought unconstitutionally. “Today, everything Imran said has proven to be false. His narrative has been broken into pieces.
“This audio leak has revealed the filth inside Imran,” the minister claimed.
He went on to say that during the 3.5 years of the PTI government, Imran did “irreparable damage” to Pakistan economically, politically and morally.
“Imran only creates narratives that are based on fraud […] which is also the case with his politics. He only wants to divide the youth and polarise them.
“People need to realise that this man needs to be exposed and be stopped from spreading this chaos, otherwise he will lead the nation to a point of no return,” Sanaullah said, stressing that it was extremely important to “expose” the PTI chairman’s “true face”.
In reply to a question about how the leaks raised questions about security, the minister said that whether these audios were legal or Constitution “is a different matter”, elaborating that the media has changed today.
He added that if such an act truly exposed a perpetrator, then it was beneficial.
Cipher audio leak
In today’s leak, a second voice, believed to be of the former principal secretary, 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 be Azam, adds that “minutes are in my hands … we will draft the minutes”.
Here, 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, 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.
Leaks reveal significant breach in security at PMO
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 PM Shehbaz, 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’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 Maryam and the premier about Ismail, 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 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.