Audio leaks implosion

Friday, Sep 30, 2022

The Friday Column

By Raoof Hasan

A large number of audio leaks have surfaced chronicling conversations that took place in the Prime Minister’s Office, mostly discussing policy matters that involved members of the cabinet and other senior officials of the state.

According to Open Source Intelligence Insider (@OSINT_Insider on Twitter), the released audios are part of conversations spread over 140 hours, comprising 100 files of 8 GB size. The alleged hacker is demanding $3.45 million for dispensing with the entire recordings which have been available for sale since August 20. @OSINT_Insider has also claimed that the conversations were not secured by telephone. These were recorded live inside the Prime Minister’s Office. Some of these recordings have now been released through social media platforms for the consumption of ordinary people. The hackers have further claimed that similar recordings are available involving the heads of some institutions of the country.

The episode raises serious concerns about the security of the Prime Minister’s Office. This security failure should be condemned in the strongest possible terms. It must also be ensured that those found responsible for this grave dereliction are held to account.

The recordings have also come as a blessing in disguise as the treachery at play at the hands of the partners in the criminal cabal in managing the affairs of the state has been embarrassingly laid bare. Some of the key subjects about which conversations have been released include the return of Ishaq Dar as finance minister of the country and the way it was managed and why, concessions granted to the cigarette industry owing to the interest of the spouse of a sitting member of the cabinet, import of industrial machinery from India and Maryam Nawaz’s insistence on it because it is needed for the factory of her son-in-law, blatant duplicity regarding increase in oil prices, discontinuing the Health Card facility introduced by the PTI for poor people, media management, and conspiracy shrouding the acceptance of resignations tendered by PTI MNAs and the criminal role of the chief election commissioner (CEC) in this regard.

Collectively, the tapes made public so far reveal the worst of politics practised in the country by a variety of parties, most notably the PML-N. They have always practised politics by bartering in human conscience in exchange for inducements of multiple forms, be they moral, material or financial. The core purpose of their entry in politics was to build family fiefdoms that would forever rule the country by enslaving it in their clutches. That is why the traditionally dominant players in the political arena malevolently tailored a system that would serve their intrinsic interests. The cruel excesses of the system have only aggravated with the induction of their progeny.

The system in its present form is more Machiavellian than Machiavelli himself, more criminal than crime itself, and more self-serving than human imagination can fathom. This comes across so vividly in the conversations which have already been made public. In the one between Shehbaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz discussing petroleum prices, the latter advises her uncle to increase the rates which she’ll oppose on social media. In another one, Maryam tells the prime minister that the Health Card is the “only strong point” the PTI has and that he should discontinue the facility. The prime minister agrees saying that he would cite economic difficulties as the reason for doing so. There is much more which further exposes the sinister motives of these criminals, the way they have practised politics, and why Pakistan remains one of the most under-developed countries in the world, virtually on the verge of bankruptcy.

In any civilized democracy, these tapes would have been enough reason for the government to tender its resignation paving the way for either someone else within the ruling coalition to form the next administration, or holding general elections and seeking a fresh mandate. For obvious reasons, none of these democratic options would be pursued. Instead, attempts will be made to douse the seriousness of the matter by resorting to multiple devious tactics including the formation of an investigation committee which shall declare as it is ordered, pinning the blame on everyone other than the prime minister and members of his team.

This embarrassing episode takes us back to the original question which has been raised a million times in the past weeks: what was that unmanageable and pressing need which made the induction of a cabal of criminals to rule the country essential as an integral part of the dubious process of executing a foreign-dictated and locally-collaborated conspiracy to remove Imran Khan’s government?

Hypothetically, even if Khan had to go because his fight for asserting Pakistan’s freedom to formulate policies that would promote its interests was not acceptable, were there no decent people left in the national political domain who would be credible as compared to this bunch of inveterate criminals who have proved their dubious credentials by sitting on judgement on their own grievous crimes and securing relief by amending the NAB laws and other rules and regulations which incriminated them?

As a first step to celebrate the fulfilment of this sinister plan, the absconder former finance minister, Ishaq Dar, who was helped to flee the country in his official plane by the then sitting prime minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, is back to take oath both as senator and finance minister. Has anyone ever seen such horrible travesty perpetrated in any democratic polity where an alleged criminal would take oath as the prime minister and hold the system hostage to ensure that all his colleagues are washed clean of their sins? Well, it is happening in Pakistan with none within the gravely complicit power echelons even blinking an eye.

Pakistan has been properly secured in the lap of crime which is now the only safe thing to pursue in this country. Commit whatever crime may fancy you, a way would be found to help the individual walk free of any charges and even be inducted back into the alleys of power to keep dispensing to others what he received as reward for his not-so-edifying services, courtesy the system that rules.

So, Khan’s battle is not just for securing victory. It is for a decisive victory that will enable him to make necessary amendments in the constitution and help the system on way to major reform and reorientation. That is the minimum for the country to survive the existential challenges that it is so inextricably entrapped in at this juncture.

The writer is a political and security strategist and the founder of the Regional Peace Institute in Islamabad. He tweets @RaoofHasan