Shehbaz admits ‘security lapse’ at PMO

PM forms high-powered panel to probe audio leaks


Rizwan Shehzad September 27, 2022

ISLAMABAD:

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif confirmed on Tuesday the authenticity of audio leaks and his conversation with PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz but termed the leaks as a “serious security lapse” and announced the formation of a high-powered committee to probe the issue.

The prime minister while terming the leaking of audio taps allegedly recorded at the Prime Minister House involving the premier and other high-profile people “a serious lapse”, “security breach” and “a big question mark”, announced he was forming the committee to probe the matter as the country’s respect was at stake.

“This is a very important matter and this serious security lapse and breach are a big question mark…who will be willing to come to meet the prime minister…anyone will think a 100 times before discussing any sensitive matter at the PM House,” he said.

Meanwhile, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb confirmed that the prime minister has summoned the National Security Committee (NSC) meeting on September 28 (today).

The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Intelligence Bureau (IB) had completed initial inquiry and a report regarding audio leaks would be presented before the NSC.

The top military and civilian leadership including the defence minister, interior minister, information minister, finance minister, and other important cabinet members will participate in the NSC meeting.

In a rare press conference held at PM House, the premier appeared confident and didn’t hesitate to confirm the genuineness of the audios featuring himself and Maryam Nawaz but clarified his position, saying there was nothing wrong in it as neither any favour was sought nor given.

Responding to a question related to one of the leaked audio clips, PM Shehbaz said Maryam – who is also his niece – did not ask for any favour from him regarding the import of her son-in-law’s power plant machinery from India, saying his principal secretary Dr Tauqeer Shah had told him that half of machinery was already imported during PTI’s tenure and the other half is remaining.

“If the [import] of half of the machinery is remaining then it’s a loss. However, we did not consider it appropriate to take up this matter in the federal cabinet since the matter involves India,” PM Shehbaz said, “there was nothing illegal in this [audio leak].” Referring to the alleged audio fiasco involving PTI chief Imran Khan, the premier said unlike his predecessor, he did not discuss anything about “diamonds and jewellery” in the audio leaks.

Urging the media to highlight the content of audio leaks which exposed the corruption of “Imran and his cronies”, the premier said that Imran misused his powers, sold the gifts received from other states, strained relations with friendly countries and others, and bent backwards but couldn’t prove anything against his opponents.

The Issue of audio leaks carrying conversations allegedly held among key government figures, including PM Shehbaz, Maryam and some members of the federal cabinet, discussing governance matters privately recently emerged and triggered concerns over the security of the PM House. The audio recordings have also triggered a debate if things would go beyond allegations, admissions and denials or truth would once again remain buried before the country moves on to some other issue.

PM Shehbaz’s press conference on the heels of his meetings with world leaders at Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) moot in Uzbekistan and 77th session of the UN General Assembly in U.S touched several key issues that have gripped the country in recent days and clarified his government’s position.

Among other things, PM Shehbaz said that Pakistan has come out of international isolation phase due to the efforts of the coalition government; justified his government’s legitimacy; ruled out the possibility of snap polls; chided the PTI leadership’s demand that army chief should be appointed with consultation; and shunned the criticism over his meeting with PML-N Quaid Nawaz Sharif in London.

The premier termed his meetings with the presidents of China, Russia and U.S, central Asian and other world leaders encouraging, saying U.S President Joe Biden has assured him that he would do whatever he could for Pakistan in the wake of floods and added that Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered wheat and gas to Pakistan. Apart from UN general secretary and several world leaders’ unequivocal support, he mentioned that French President has also assured his support to Pakistan in these testing times and UK PM has announced.

While laughing off at PTI chairman Imran Khan’s condition that PTI would return to the National Assembly if an investigation into regime-change and cypher controversy was conducted, PM Shehbaz said that the National Security Committee has already ruled that there wasn’t anything in the “cypher” issue. He added that his meeting with Russian President was a proof that there was no need to have any investigation into the “imported government” allegation.

In the press conference, PM lambasted the PTI government for flouting IMF’s conditions and pushing the country on the verge of default; accused PTI chairman of creating a divide among the armed forces of Pakistan as well as causing polarization and divide among the nation. PM Shehbaz frequently called ex-premier Imran Khan a “liar” and “corrupt” person.

Commenting on the controversy surrounding the next army chief’s appointment, premier Shehbaz said he would follow the procedure laid in the Constitution and law for the appointment of the new military head. Responding to a question on appointing the army chief with consensus, he said: “Did he [Imran Khan] consult us when he extended the tenure of the army chief? We will follow the Constitution and law.”

Also read: 'National security crisis': PTI demands probe into govt audio leaks

On criticism about discussing “sensitive matters” with PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif in London, PM Shehbaz said he discussed matters related to the economy and others with his Quaid and added that there was nothing wrong with this. Shehbaz said that Imran Khan had jeopardized Pakistan’s prestige and honour, accusing the PTI leader of being rude with other world leaders while being the premier.

“I cannot share the views of the leaders of friendly countries about the PTI leaders’ demeanour,” Shehbaz said, saying people would have goosebumps had he revealed what world leaders told him about Imran’s behavior. He said mutual respect and trusts were keys in the relations with friendly and other countries but the previous rulers ruined everything with their rude behavior.

To a question, Shehbaz said that previous rulers used to meet with world leaders as if they were seeking financial help from Pakistan though it was the other way around. He lambasted Imran, saying he thinks himself as Einstein but hasn’t done anything for the country. He said people have the right to give vote anyone but they should think carefully who should they vote for when the time comes.

During the press conference, PM Shehbaz revealed that he bears all the expenses of all his international visits since becoming Punjab chief minister to PM, saying he has been bearing expenses since 1997 till now and urges all accompanying him to do the same if they can.

To Imran’s habit of showing Shahbaz’ video clips in rallies where he talks about begging from other countries, PM said that Imran also used to go abroad and beg for the country. “Did Imran used to go abroad for providing aid to other countries,” he questioned. He lashed out at Imran and the then cabinet for giving approval to things presented in sealed envelopes, questioning what if the sealed envelopes contained deals about Kashmir or nuclear weapons.

Responding to a question, Shehbaz said that he had no regrets about coming into power after removing the PTI-led government through a vote of no confidence, saying Pakistan would have default had the then opposition parties didn’t come forward and take charge. To a question about Nawaz Sharif’s return, Shehbaz said that he would return when the doctors allow him.

To a question about an alleged meeting held among army chief, Imran Khan and President Arif Alvi, PM Shehbaz said he had no knowledge about it but quipped if the journalist wanted that an audio leak of the meeting should surface. About Miftah Ismail’s removal and Ishaq Dar’s entry, Shehbaz said that Dar was an “honest politician” and hoped that he would turn around things soon.

PM said that he along with his team have effectively highlighted the flood situation in Pakistan vis a vis climate change, adding Pakistan’s viewpoint was forcefully presented on the issues of Kashmir, Palestine and Islamophobia. He said that the plight of Kashmiris in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, atrocities in IIOJK, the August 5, 2019 illegal action of India in the disputed territory and treatment meted out to Muslims in India were also highlighted in the address at UNGA.

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