ISLAMABAD: At a time when the dust had hardly settled after telephonic conversations between the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders, including Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, were leaked, another audio leak triggered an instant firestorm in the already politically tense atmosphere on Wednesday, and this time the audio was of none other than that of former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan.
In the leaked telephonic conversation, both Imran Khan and his principal secretary Azam Khan could be heard discussing the US cipher, which had led to the ouster of the PTI government after the passage of no-trust motion in the National Assembly on April 10, 2022.
Let’s play with it
In the leaked audio, Imran Khan could be heard directing his then principal secretary that they should play with the cypher issue without taking the name of the United States. “Let’s play with it and make it foreign plot,” Imran Khan said.
Azam Khan suggests that a meeting of Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Foreign Secretary should be held where Shah Mahmood Qureshi will be asked to read out the letter.
“So whatever he will tell us, I will type it down and convert it into minutes. After this, we will write the analysis as we deem fit, so it becomes part of the record”, he suggested.
Azam Khan further said that in the analysis, “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 according to our wishes.”
After listening to his principal secretary’s suggestion, Imran Khan directs him to go ahead with the meeting.
Azam further said that foreign secretary should be called to the meeting so that this thing can be highlighted at the bureaucratic level, not just the political one. “You understand what I’m saying,” he asked Imran Khan.
New dimension to PTI narrative
In the audio, Azam could be heard advising Imran to call PTI’s meeting to add a new dimension to the party’s ‘foreign conspiracy’ narrative.
He also counselled him to talk to the then Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and foreign secretary on the subject.
Let’s carve out strategy
Imran, on the other hand, explained to Azam the strategy the party would have to chalk out to present its narrative to the nation as well as the world more emphatically.
Former prime minister could be heard telling his confidante that from now on the party would only talk about the narrative, but would stop short of mentioning USA’s name.
Azam told Imran that Qureshi would read out the cypher before him before amending it further. “And in the minutes of the meeting I will include his analysis in which I will show that our government had been ‘threatened’ by a foreign power because in diplomatic language, we call it a ‘threat’,” he said, and added, “The purpose of the entire exercise is to bring it on record.”
On the other hand, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s media coordinator shared the alleged telephonic talk between the former prime minister and his principal secretary on his twitter account.
Transcript of Imran Khan’s conversation with Azam Khan
Imran Khan: Ok, so now let’s just play with it. We don’t need to name America. We will just play over it and say that the date was already there.
Azam Khan: Sir, I was thinking…that we should hold a meeting on this cypher 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? Let’s call a meeting of Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Foreign Secretary (Sohail Mahmood). There, 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. After this, we will write the analysis as we deem fit, so it becomes part of the record. In the analysis, we will say that the language used [in the letter] in diplomatic norms is considered a threat …….and things like that. See, the minutes [of the meeting] are in my hand, we can draft them according to our wishes.
Imran Khan: So whom should we call in this meeting? Shah Mahmood [foreign minister], you [Azam], I [Imran], and Sohail [foreign secretary].
Azam Khan: [Yes,] that’s it.
Imran Khan: Alright then, let’s hold this meeting tomorrow.
Azam Khan: [So see, if we do this] then things will come on record. Right now, he is consulate for the state [sic] and when he will read it out, I will copy them easily so it will become part of the record. You should also call the foreign secretary so that this thing can be highlighted at the bureaucratic level, not just the political one. You understand what I’m saying.
Imran Khan: The ambassador wrote it himself.
Azam Khan: We don’t have the copy right now. How did they take it [cable] out?
Imran Khan: This was raised from here. He did it. But anyhow, let’s make it a foreign conspiracy.