High-powered body to probe audio leaks: PM

Our Correspondent
Wednesday, Sep 28, 2022

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Tuesday said that audio leaks of the Prime Minister House was a ‘serious security lapse’ and it would be thoroughly investigated through a high-powered committee.

Responding to a question at a press conference here at the Prime Minister’s House, Sharif observed that airing of audios posed a big question mark not only on security but also put the country’s dignity at stake.

Federal ministers Ahsan Iqbal, Marriyum Aurangzeb and Sherry Rehman were also present at the occasion. Shehbaz said he would be forming a high-powered committee to fully probe it and unearth the facts, adding that the issue of audio leaks did not confine to his own person, rather there could be anyone and therefore it should be probed thoroughly.

The prime minister further said that visitors from foreign countries would also feel uncomfortable if the conversations were bugged in official places and such breaches of cyber secrecy were related to the matter of respect of 220 million Pakistanis. “Any foreign guest will think twice before meeting me in the Prime Minister’s House fearing conversation could be leaked,” he said.

He questioned whether in the leaked audios anyone heard of any bargaining or approval of any proposal, saying that if there was any wrongdoing, ask him and he would respond. “Please do not make a mountain out of a molehill. It is not suitable,” he said.

Shehbaz Sharif pointed out that his Principal Secretary Dr Tauqir Shah was telling him that half of the machinery for the plant to be installed by son-in-law of Maryam Nawaz was imported from India during the PTI tenure while for importing the rest, the nod from the ECC and federal cabinet was required.

“But I did not agree with that and said it was an issue that pertained to India as their government committed acts of August 5, 2019 and was involved in human rights violations in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.

“Maryam Nawaz had never asked for any favour, neither she sought any favour nor did she recommend anything for her son-in-law,” he said, adding that as the matter pertained to India, they did not agree on taking the same to the cabinet.

To another question about consultations with the political leadership and opposition regarding appointment of new army chief, Sharif questioned if Imran Khan as premier held consultations before giving an extension to the sitting chief. He maintained that the relevant law and rules would be followed for the appointment of the next army chief.

The prime minister also told a questioner that there was no threat to the incumbent government and general elections would be held as per schedule. To another question, he said he had no regrets for taking over the government at a difficult juncture, adding that the coalition partners could not allow the previous government play further havoc with the country’s economy and its foreign policy.

“Rest assured, we will not run away and will put it on the right path,” he emphasised. The prime minister said that the country was passing through ‘a state of war on the economic front’ and the coalition government was fully trying to set the national economy on right path.

The prime minister said the coalition government had been focused on the economic situation and, therefore, they had no time for settling political scores with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan. “If he had spent half of the time of his government on strengthening the economy, there might have been some improvement,” he said without naming Imran Khan.

The prime minister said the PTI government had taken a case against him with the UK NCA, which gave him a clean chit after investigation, while on the contrary, Imran Niazi had misused the hospital’s donation money for his political purposes.

Summoning up his experience with the PTI leader, he said he had never come across such a “liar, corrupt and ungrateful person” in his life. The prime minister said billions of rupees were embezzled in the Peshawar Metro bus project and similar was the fate with the billion trees tsunami. He said he could not sleep out of the fear that the country could be defaulted due to the economic straits in which the PTI government had left it.

During the PTI tenure, the national assets were sold mercilessly and Toshakhana was an example in this regard where watches were sold out and the amount was taken away by Imran Khan, he said.

He said that Imran Khan sold out watches and after fetching the amount, the required percentage of the Toshakhana gifts was deposited which blatantly violated the set norms and requirements.

Further, they were tied with the tough conditions of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), he said, adding on the sidelines of United Nations General Assembly session in New York, he held a meeting with the IMF managing director about the flood and economic situation of Pakistan. To a question, the prime minister straightaway rubbished the PTI’s leadership allegations of the imported government and said his cordial meeting with Russian President Putin was suffice to deflate such hollow claims. The Russian president had asked for export of wheat and oil to Pakistan, he added.

Moreover, the Supreme Court and the National Security Committee had not found any clue of any connivance of the politicians with the foreign governments to dislodge the PTI’s government, he said, adding through a constitutional and democratic manner, the previous government was shown the door through use of vote of no-confidence motion. He asked what was in the cypher that should be investigated.

The prime minister said they would respect the public mandate in the general elections but advised the people to consider the fact that a person (Imran Khan) was telling lies on daily basis.

The closed envelop of 190 million UK pounds case was approved in the PTI’s cabinet without opening it, he added. The prime minister said the PTI leadership was spewing venom and expressed his fear at the widening gap of polarisation in the society.

In the tug of political war, this person (IK) could take the country to a destructive path, he said and alluded to the recent ugly incident against Marriyum Aurangzeb in the United Kingdom. “What will become of the country, that is the real issue,” he stressed.

Responding to another question, he said the PTI’s government did not provide fertiliser to the farmers and they had to import wheat to cover its shortfall whereas the coalition government had waived off fuel adjustment prices to the power consumers using 300 units.

The prime minister, to a question, regretted, saying he had openly and repeatedly maintained that during the last 75 years, Pakistan was taken at a point, where they were considered by the outer world as seekers of financial help. “Whether Imran Niazi went aboard with national coffers filled!” he added.

Shehbaz Sharif said with the help of cronies and lackeys, he (Imran) had secured an NRO (National Reconciliation Ordinance) for his sister in a NAB case, which also posed a huge question mark.

He termed the PTI chief a real threat to the country’s solidarity. The unfolding of facts had vindicated his stance that NAB-Niazi connivance had taken Pakistan to the brink of difficulties, he added.

Regarding the resignations of PTI legislators from the National Assembly, the prime minister said they had never asked them to resign and hinted that they would welcome them if they returned back to Parliament.

He ruled out any prospects of reconciliation with Imran Khan due to his past attitude in Parliament. The prime minister, in an apparent reference to the PTI’s audio leaks, said why questions were not raised over those audio leaks which provided clear evidences of bribing of diamonds and properties given in exchange for the transfer of 190 million pounds sterling, which were sent back as a law suit agreement with the National Crimes Agency of the UK.

To another question, the prime minister said Imran Niazi had misused the national machinery with use of brute force by framing fake cases against Nawaz Sharif and other leadership of PPP (Pakistan Peoples Party) and PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz), and even the women were not spared.

He said it was on record that Bashir Memon, former chief of FIA (Federal Investigation Agency), was summoned to file fake cases against the political adversaries of PTI. His statements in that regard were on the record.

“If I err somewhere, I shall ask for forgiveness from the nation,” the prime minister maintained. He said during the PTI’s government, sugar was exported by claiming it as surplus and then subsidy was given on its import while during Nawaz Sharif’s government, sugar was sold at Rs52 per kg which was an irrefutable evidence.

The PTI’s government provided subsidy over sugar at a time when the US dollar was on the surge and rupee was tumbling down, so it provided ‘a windfall’, manifesting billions of rupees scam, he said. “Actually what I am saying in brief is that there was a NAB-Niazi alliance in the previous regime,” he added.

Imran Khan’s claims of bringing the corrupt elements to book did not yield any results, the prime minister said and questioned where had been the commission that was promised to probe such corruption? How many people were proceeded against and taken to jails?

The NAB chairman was blackmailed through a female complainant who was unlawfully kept in confinement in the PM house, he added. He said the vice chancellor of Government College University was appointed by the Punjab government, however, Imran Khan’s speech to its students was a highly condemnable act. He assured that they would take up the issue in the parliament, as it was an unpardonable act.

Replying to another question, the prime minister said they had never regretted for coming into power. “We have resolved to save the state of Pakistan from default, and even for it, I will not budge to sacrifice my life,” he stressed.

He said Miftah Ismail was a respectable member of the cabinet but he wanted to resign. Appreciating his work, he said the former minister had done a very good job. About the return of Ishaq Dar, the prime minister said he was well aware of the issues of finance, and as he was a hard-working man, capable and honest politician, he would further fine tune the economy.

About the oil prices in the global market, he said the government only increased Rs1.50 per liter price of petrol, and did not raise that of diesel. The disparity between the value of US dollar and the rupee was reflected in the price of petroleum products, he said and hoped that the rupee would gain against the US dollar.

The person who had provided billions of rupees subsidies to the farmers and awarded millions of laptops to the deserving students, could never thought of burdening the pubic with price hike, he maintained.

The prime minister said the government had allocated Rs70 billion for the support of flood affectees through the Benazir Income Support Programme. He had never seen such a destruction in his lifetime as caused by the unprecedented floods in the country.

The United Nations Secretary General, he added, had assured him to arrange a donors’ conference for the flood victims of Pakistan and had declared not to leave Pakistan in the time of difficulty. French President Macron had also indicated his support to Pakistan, he said.

The prime minister said with the efforts of coalition government, Pakistan has come out of isolation phase and country’s relations with brotherly countries and other world nations were improving.

He regretted that it was arrogant attitude of Imran Khan during the previous regime that Pakistan’s relations with friendly countries were deteriorated. “I cannot utter words which leaders of friendly countries used about arrogant attitude of Imran Khan,” he said.

Shehbaz said that the world leaders have assured support to help Pakistan for rehabilitation of people affected by the devastating floods. The prime minister said during his stay at Washington DC, he made every effort to seek the attention of world community towards the adverse impacts of climate change in Pakistan.

He said he also highlighted the Kashmir and Palestine issues at the United Nations effectively. He said the issue of Islamophobia was also highlighted as due to this rising issue Muslims in India are facing life threats.

The prime minister also acknowledged efforts of federal ministers Ahsan Iqbal, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Marriyum Aurangzeb, Sherry Rehman, Khawaja Asif, Minister of State Hina Rabbani Khar which made his visits to the United States and participation in SCO summit successful.

To another question, the prime minister said he was thrice elected as Khadim-e-Aala (chief minister of Punjab), with the support of Nawaz Sharif and he bore all the expenses of his official foreign visits from his personal sources during the last 20-25 years.

Being a prime minister, it was not a new thing, he said, if Allah Almighty had blessed him with such a status, he would never spend the public money.

“If Allah has bestowed me with such a high status why would I spend the public money,” the prime minister elaborated while responding to a question about his current expenditures abroad. Replying to a query, the prime minister said Nawaz Sharif would return back once the doctors allowed him.