• Conversation between ex-PM, his principal secretary hints at attempt to extract political mileage from envoy’s cable
• Cabinet discusses audio leak; Sanaullah vows legal action, forensic investigation into audio clips
• PM House implements measures to plug future leaks

ISLAMABAD: Only a few days after multiple audio leaks featuring the incumbent prime minister were leaked to the media, another audio clip emerged on Wednesday, but this time former prime minister Imran Khan and his much-touted ‘threat cipher’ were the subjects of the leaked clip.

The audio clip revealed a conversation between Imran Khan and then principal secretary Azam Khan about the cipher — shared by Asad Majeed, the then envoy to the US — which Imran Khan has used to peddle his foreign conspiracy narrative.

In the clip, the former prime minister can be heard telling Azam Khan to ‘play up’ the cipher and turn it into a foreign plot to oust his government. He, however, adds that there is no need to name any country. “We only have to play it up. We don’t have to name America. We only have to play with this, that this date [of the no-trust vote] was [decided] before.”

“Sir, I was thinking…that we should hold a meeting on this cipher issue. If you might remember, the ambassador mentioned at the last of the letter that we should issue a demarche. If you still don’t want to issue a demarche, because I thought over it last night...how can we cover this?” a voice purportedly belonging to Azam Khan can be heard in the clip.

He further asks Imran Khan to call a “meeting of then foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and the foreign secretary wherein we will ask Shah Mahmood Qureshi to read out the letter. So whatever he will tell us, I will type it down and convert it into [meeting] minutes that the foreign minister said this and the foreign secretary said this”.

Azam Khan also assured the former premier that he could “twist minutes according to their wishes”. “We will say that the language used in the letter is termed a threat and the minutes of the meeting are in my hand, as we can draft them as per our choice.”

Editorial: More leaks

According to the clip, Azam Khan can be heard saying the analysis of cipher will “have to be conducted here. We will conduct the analysis and convert it into minutes as we want so that it becomes [a part of] office record”. As per the former principal secretary, the analysis would infer that the cipher was a “threat” as “it is called a threat in diplomatic language”.

The “minutes are in my hands … we will draft the minutes”, Azam Khan says while adding that by following the said process things would become 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,” Dawn.com quoted from the audio clip.

By calling the foreign secretary, the issue would become a part of the bureaucratic record, Azam Khan adds. Imran Khan responds that the cipher was written by an ambassador so it should already be a part of the bureaucratic record. “But we don’t have a copy of it. How did they release it?” Azam Khan responds.

Cabinet discusses leak

Mr Khan’s audio leak was also discussed in the federal cabinet after which Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah held a press conference and said the PTI’s suspected plot “caused unbearable harm [to Pakistan] and vowed to take legal action against those involved in the leak”.

The interior minister read out from a transcript of the leaked conversation and said that the clip revealed that Mr Khan had hatched a conspiracy to fulfill his “anti-state agenda”.

Mr Sanaullah claimed that “power hungry” Imran Khan was creating anarchy and chaos in the country and the audio leak had fully exposed him before the nation.

He said Mr Khan misguided students in his address at the Government College University, Lahore that his government was ousted through a foreign conspiracy, but his leaked audio revealed the “real story”.

“If he has some moral fibre then he should approach the Supreme Court for an inquiry into his own audio leak,” he said while taking a jibe at the former premier for his persistent demand of probing the foreign conspiracy against his government. According to Mr Sanaullah, the government would ensure a forensic audit of the audio clip.

Strict measures at PM House

Meanwhile, as conversations happened in the Prime Minister’s House continue to be leaked, strict measures have been put in place to plug any possible future leaks. These security measures include keeping a “vigilant eye on lower staff” while their movement has also been minimised. No one is allowed to take mobile phones inside the PM’s House and a director general the cybersecurity is being appointed to prevent such leaks in the future.

Earlier, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in his opening remarks in the cabinet meeting appreciated his cabinet members and senior government officers for the success of his visits to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Samarkand as well as the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Prime Minister Shehbaz also welcome Ishaq Dar who assumed the office of finance minister earlier in the day.

Published in Dawn, September 29th, 2022

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