PTI Chairman Imran Khan on Monday wrote a letter to Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial and other Supreme Court judges, and sought “enforcement” of the fundamental rights of the public — including the Constitution’s Article 14 (fundamental right to privacy) — in connection with a series of private telephonic conversations of political leaders that have surfaced online over the past few months.
The letter comes days after a phone call of PTI Central Punjab president Dr Yasmin Rashid with the former CCPO Ghulam Mehmood Dogar was released on social media. It was only the latest in a spree of private conversations — mostly involving opposition leaders and its allies — that have been leaked.
In the letter dated Feb 19, Imran said “various ex-public officials, myself included, and even private members of the public have suffered” from those leaks while specifically mentioning PTI Senator Azam Swati’s alleged inappropriate video leak. He termed the leaks to be “unverified, edited, tampered, pieced together and even fabricated conversations’.
He bemoaned that a plea he had filed in the Supreme Court on Oct 20, 2022 — seeking the formation of a joint investigation team or a judicial commission to probe the “illegal” surveillance, recording and release of data from the PMO — had not been fixed for hearing yet.
Asserting he was “not alone in anxiously seeking the assurance of the highest court”, the former premier appealed to CJP Bandial to fix his petition filed earlier for hearing at the “earliest possible opportunity”.
Imran said it was “now common knowledge that for the last several months mysterious unverified audio/video clips have periodically surfaced on social media in the country purporting to carry alleged conversations between various public officials/ex-public officials and on occasion private individuals”.
He added that those “audio/video clips have not been verified and appear to be either deep fakes or fabricated, edited, trimmed and joined, pieced together, and cannibalised to present an inaccurate and incorrect portrayal of the alleged conversations that they purport to carry”.
The PTI chief said the sequence of audio leaks began “several months ago when certain purported conversations were leaked” whose content suggested that “conversations taking place in the Prime Minister’s House/Office were being surveilled and bugged on a systematic and routine basis”.
He noted the PMO was a “highly sensitive state installation where matters of great national sensitivity and importance are discussed” and that a breach of security there had a “grave effect on the lives, livelihood, safety, and security of the people of Pakistan”.
The former premier went on to assert that in recent months, the “use of unverified, unauthenticated, edited and tampered leaks has only widened in order to target and silence criticism”.
Imran referred to Articles 4 (right of individuals to be dealt with in accordance with law, etc) and 14 (inviolability of dignity of man, etc) of the Constitution to highlight how it guaranteed the rights to privacy of the citizens.
He lamented, “It has become increasingly obvious that this guarantee is not only being violated but being done so with an unjustifiable audacity and a clear sense of impunity.”
Referring to a recent audio leak featuring former Punjab chief minister Chaudhry Parvez Elahi and a sitting Supreme Court judge, Imran said “matters had only gotten worse”.
He asked, “Under what law are the people subject to such widespread surveillance and recording? By whom? To what end? Under what constrain and with what checks and balances in place?”
He raised the question of whether any measures had been “taken over the last several months to put an end to such breaches” and if “sensitive state installations” were secure.
In September last year, 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.
The content of the recordings appeared to be informal conversations in the Prime Minister’s Office — as opposed to recorded phone conversations.
First, 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.
Further recordings surfaced a day later, 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 had termed the surfacing of audio leaks a “very serious lapse” and announced that a high-level committee would be constituted to probe the matter.
At the same time, the premier had also said that Imran’s audio leaks were “an irrefutable endorsement” that the PTI chief was the “biggest liar on the face of the earth”.
Recently, two alleged audio clips of Elahi surfaced on social media in which he can be heard giving directions to two men regarding fixing certain cases before a particular apex court judge.