Supporters of Pakistani opposition leader Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf party attend a rally, in Peshawar, Pakistan, Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022.InternationalIndiaAfricaAneela RashidLast Sunday, dozens of recordings of private conversations in the house of the Pakistani Prime Minister were leaked online, raising questions about security inside the building. Sputnik contacted a political candidate, the representative of Mianwali district in Pakistan’s province of Punjab, to discover more about the situation.As political scandals rattle on and floods continue to wreak their devastation, Pakistan can now add another quirk to its voluminous catalogue of eccentricities – leaked recordings of its top political leaders have gone viral online.The leaked tapes come from the Prime Minister’s residence in Islamabad, suggesting a serious security breach inside the building. The recordings go back so far that, as well as conversations between the present prime minister Shehbaz Sharif and leaders of his Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) (PML-N) government, there are recordings of his predecessor, Imran Khan.
One audio clip allegedly featuring Sharif, involves him in discussion with an unidentified person regarding PML-N vice-president and Sharif's niece, Maryam Nawaz, who allegedly asked him to arrange the acquisition of an Indian power plant to be imported for her son-in-law. In the clip, Sharif is heard instructing his collocutor about the acquisition.
The second leaked audio that has gone viral on social media allegedly features Sharif, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and others having a discussion regarding resignations from the former ruling party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Pakistan Movement for Justice, founded in 1996 by Imran Khan).In the recording, PML-N leaders can allegedly be heard giving their opinions about the PTI resignations. They are also talking about whether London should accept the resignations, as reported by local TV channel, Geo.
Just days after this series of leaks, another audio clip emerged on Wednesday, but this time it was a recording of former prime minister Imran Khan from months ago. In it, he was discussing a coded threatening letter with his principal secretary, Azam Khan.
The letter was much-discussed in the country back in March, when Khan – still PM – told Pakistan’s public that there was a foreign conspiracy to oust him from power. He claimed then that the US wanted him out and claimed that there was a letter to prove it.In these recent leaked recordings, Khan is actually heard discussing this threat, or letter, with his principal secretary.WorldImran Khan Demands Sharif Gov’t Release US Cable on ‘Big Foreign Conspiracy’ in Pakistan28 September 2022, 13:21 GMTIn the clip, the former prime minister can be heard telling Azam Khan to “discredit” the letter. However, he adds that there is no need to name any country. “We only have to discredit it. We don’t have to name America. We only have to play with this and point out that the date [of the no-trust vote] was [decided] before,” as reported by newspaper, Dawn.The clip goes on for a few more minutes while Khan and his aide talk about the need for a meeting with a few other close PTI members regarding the matter.Local news channels are reporting that there is a hacker who has recorded these clips and is now trying to sell them on the dark web. However, this doesn’t explain why the prime minister’s house was bugged in the first place.
Expressing his shock over the scandal, Taimur Khan Jhagra, the finance minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, was cited by Geo as saying: "8GB of hacked leaks from the Prime Minister's office. Regardless of who is speaking, this Orwellian culture of recordings is disgusting."
So why are these tapes being leaked now? Who is behind them and who benefits from this scandal?To get some clarity, Sputnik contacted Shahzaman K Niazi, a political candidate and representative of PP85 Mianwali-1 district.
Focusing on the timing of these leaks, Niazi explained: "When the prize is power, all coincidences can be aligned into a coherent decisive outcome. First outcome is Sharif holding the prime minister's office for a full term, which gives him enough time to clear all corruption cases and political limitations set on him and his family. The second outcome is to dive into free and fair general elections now. In both these cases information is the weapon of choice and this hacker is the medium of communication."
He added that, as the political and economic situation of Pakistan is at the height of uncertainty, the world has taken fright and these audio leaks are going to affect the reputation and credibility of whoever is in power.
"Since Pakistanis are fed up with corrupt leaders, the party declared as corrupt will be finished in the forthcoming general elections," Niazi said.
So, could these tapes be a timely revelation of what goes on in the prime minister’s residence or is there some sinister motive behind this, such as blackmail?PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry, the former minister for Information and Broadcasting has questioned country’s cyber security and says that the tapes are on sale on the dark web.In a tweet he said: “It is a major failure of our intelligence agencies, especially the Intelligence Bureau (IB). Besides political matters, important discussions on security and foreign affairs are in their hands,” he added.Regarding this, Niazi told Sputnik said that throughout history, especially when power is at stake, intelligence agencies have intervened.
"The Intelligence Bureau works alongside the PM's office, whereas Military Intelligence works with the consent of the Army Chief. If more time is going to spent trying to discover 'who' is behind the leaks, it should be understood that both the Army Chief and the present Prime Minister of Pakistan are looking for their terms to be extended by delaying the early General Elections."
These statements suggest that Pakistan’s intelligence agencies are possibly abusing their power to manipulate the already struggling political class – and such scandals have happened before in Pakistan. It is a fact that the establishment has a tight hold on the country’s ruling parties and uses various ways to retain its control.Political analyst, Aasim Akhtar wrote for Pakistan newspaper, Dawn: “The watchful eye of the state certainly keeps the closest look on political forces that are already controlling the reins of government or seeking to do so in the near future.”