ISLAMABAD: A latest audio leak from the Prime Minister’s Office on Wednesday has shed new light on Pakistan’s political intrigues, once again bringing into the spotlight a diplomatic cipher that is at the center of ex-premier Imran Khan’s allegations that his ouster earlier this year was part of a regime change conspiracy hatched abroad.
In April, the Khan government handed an official protest to the US embassy over what it called Washington’s interference in the country’s affairs, referring to a diplomatic note from a Pakistani diplomat based on his meetings with US officials that Khan has said was evidence of a foreign conspiracy to oust him from power.
Just weeks later, Khan was removed from office in a parliamentary vote of no-confidence, which he blamed, and continues to blame, on a conspiracy hatched by the United States with Khan’s rivals in Pakistan, including current Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. Both deny the charge but Khan has held rallies across the country since, sticking to the theory of a foreign conspiracy and challenging the mandate of the Sharif government.
Last weekend, a slew of audio recordings of conversations between key government figures were leaked online from the PM’s Office, including discussions between PM Sharif and members of his cabinet. But a latest leak released today, Wednesday, features a conversation between Khan when he was PM and his then principal secretary Azam Khan.
Speaking to reporters after the leak, Khan did not deny the authenticity of the audio file, saying the diplomatic cipher itself should be released so the nation could see “magnitude of the conspiracy.”
The purported audio file starts midway through a conversation between Khan and Azam.
“Now we have to play with this [cipher],” Khan is heard saying. “Don’t take America’s name, just play with this.”
Azam then suggests that the PM call a meeting with Shah Mahmood Qureshi, then foreign minister, and the Foreign Secretary Suhail Mahmood to put on record the threat allegedly contained in the cipher.
“Qureshi would read out the letter and whatever he reads out, we will turn it into a copy. I will do that in the minutes [of the meeting] that the Foreign Secretary has told this. Then the analysis will be done here [at the PM Office],” the former principal secretary said.
“We will do analysis of minutes [of meeting] of our own choice, this way minutes would be on the records of the [PM] office. The analysis will be that [the cypher] was a threat.”
On Tuesday, PM Sharif called the audio leaks a ‘serious security lapse’ and said it would be thoroughly investigated.