Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday maintained that the audio leaks had exposed former premier Imran Khan’s "conspiracy" as he himself committed treason, plotted against the country and strained relations with the world’s superpower – the US – through a “deceitful” narrative.
The prime minister, while while addressing a press conference at the PM House accompanied by ministers and aides, claimed that the PTI chairman, along with his party members and incumbent President Dr Arif Alvi, while accusing others of a regime-change operation, dissolved the National Assembly within minutes back in April without listening to the other side.
“This was the real conspiracy instead of the one sold by the PTI leadership to confuse the nation,” he added.
The premier said the relationship with the world’s superpower were deliberately disrupted by Imran and his associates.
He added that the audio leaks had connected how the actual conspiracy was committed when Imran told his party that they would “play” with the cypher issue and they decided to prepare minutes of the meeting of their choice.
“Imran Khan hatched the worst kind of conspiracy against Pakistan, strained relations with global powers and committed treason against the nation,” PM Shehbaz claimed.
The premier said there was no more confusion about the regime-change conspiracy as the nation had seen the PTI leaders' actual faces through the audio leaks.
He regretted that Imran and his associates were now trying to turn global donors, who were coming forward to help flood-hit people, against the government via social media tactics.
PM Shehbaz, while referring to the audio leak revealing a conversation between Imran, ex-principal secretary Azam Khan and the then ministers about using the classified diplomatic cable for political purposes, said the episode had badly damaged Pakistan’s relations with different countries.
He, however, clarified that the current government had nothing to do with the leaks.
Referring to the National Security Committee’s (NSC) meetings, the prime minister said that the forum in its two meetings had categorically made it clear that the cypher had nothing to do with the PTI government’s ouster.
“Imran refuted it but the truth prevailed,” he added.
Following the audio leaks, the prime minister revealed that an envoy of a friendly country took him to a corner to discuss something important a few days ago.
“If the envoy of a friendly country is taking such measures, what would others do?” he remarked.
The premier said the audio leaks had caused irreparable damage and the nation would pay the cost for them for decades.
While emphasising that he did not want to use the kind of adjectives Imran used for the incumbent rulers and his opponents, PM Shehbaz described the PTI chief as a liar, fraudster, conspirator, traitor, destroyer, fugitive, egoist and stone-hearted man.
“The audio discloses all; is there any doubt left as to who hatched the conspiracy; who were the real conspirators,” the premier questioned and then answered: “It was Imran and his cronies.”
Without the audio leak, he maintained, the ambiguity could have prevailed for years but the Almighty blessed the nation by exposing Imran’s “fraud, deceit and conspiracy” against Pakistan.
PM Shehbaz said the entire ruling coalition was vindicated and Imran — who told lies to the people day and night — was exposed.
The premier also said the PTI chief attacked the army and tried to create divisions within its ranks.
He said the government wanted to keep Imran’s true face in front of the nation, saying the decision would be made by the people of Pakistan through their votes.
Answering a question, the prime minister reiterated that the PM House’s copy of the cypher was missing.
He added that Imran had recently admitted that he did not know where it was.
However, he said, the audio leaks had brought the truth before the people.
He said the federal cabinet had ordered a probe into the audio recordings, saying the nation would be informed about the outcome of the findings.
PM Shehbaz said the appointment of the next army chief would be carried out as per the Constitution and there was no need to worry about it.
He said Imran had given an NRO (amnesty for corruption charges) to himself and others.
The premier said the amendments to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) law during the PTI rule through ordinances were actually NROs.
On PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz’s departure to London, he said she had faced the trial and gone abroad after being given a clean chit by a high court.
On the issue of floods, PM Shehbaz said the government was spending nearly Rs100 billion from the national exchequer, revealing Rs70 billion had been given to the victims under the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP).
Acknowledging global aid and support, he said efforts to rehabilitate the flood victims were still under way and needed to be accelerated.
The premier also chaired a meeting of senior PML-N leaders at the Prime Minister House.
It was alleged during the huddle that miscreants were plotting a new conspiracy against economic recovery in the name of long march, referring to the PTI’s rally to the federal capital.
Condemning the plan of storming Islamabad by the PTI, the participants of the meeting unanimously decided to deal with the “rioters” with iron hands according to the law and never allow them to invade the federal capital again.
They agreed that the long march was not political but a product of a “conspiracy”.
The participants of the meeting claimed that the long march was a conspiracy against the flood victims and it should be crushed by the force of law.
They noted that these were the same people who had fired gunshots at police personnel during their previous long march, threatened the law enforcement agencies and judiciary, and attacked the institutions.
Now they wanted to create unrest in the country through bloodshed.
The participants of the meeting gave the authority to deal with the marchers to PM Shehbaz.
The meeting condemned the brutal torture on teachers at Assembly Chowk in Peshawar and their arrests, calling it proof of Imran’s “fascism”.
They claimed that Imran had neither any time for the flood victims, nor the teachers and the people of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
The meeting pointed out that the PTI was in power in K-P for eight years but it did not have money in its exchequer to pay salaries and pensions.
The meeting lauded the efforts of the prime minister and his team for the strengthening of the local currency against the US dollar and the improvement witnessed in the stock market.
The participants hoped that Finance Minister Ishaq Dar would take measures for the country’s economic recovery, reducing debt, and providing relief to the common person.
They appreciated the government’s step to reduce fuel prices and hoped that more measures would be taken to provide relief to the common people during these testing times.
Separately, PM Shehbaz said the information technology and telecom sector should achieve a target of $5 billion within a year, adding that the government would extend its full support through a comprehensive package in consultation with the industry leaders.
Earlier on Thursday, Muslim World League Secretary General Sheikh Dr Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa called on PM Shehbaz.
The premier highlighted the role played by Saudi Arabia and the Muslim World League for important Muslim causes, especially on Palestine and Kashmir.
In another meeting, PM Shehbaz said the government was completing China-Pakistan Economic Corridorn (CPEC) projects on a priority basis.
He alleged that CPEC projects were deliberately stalled during the last four years. He added that the nation had recognised the “enemies” of national ddevelopment.
Earlier, the premier in his interview to Guardian said Pakistan wanted “climate justice” from rich polluting countries after monsoons put a third of the country under water.
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