ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif's cabinet on Friday decided to constitute a special committee to probe purported audio leaks of ex-premier Imran Khan about a diplomatic cypher, which he has described as proof of a "foreign conspiracy" to oust him and which the government says has gone “missing” from the PM’s office.
Khan, who was ousted from power in a parliamentary no-trust vote in April, has said that his removal from the office was orchestrated by the United States (US). Washington and Khan's opponents, who are now in the government, have repeatedly denied the accusations.
The matter once again became a topic of public debate after the emergence of another purported audio clip online on Friday, involving Khan, his then principal secretary Azam Khan and two top aides, Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Asad Umar.
Also on Friday, PM Sharif presided over a key meeting of his cabinet, at which the participants expressed concern over the audio leaks and said they “exposed the criminal conspiracy of the previous government and prime minister Imran Khan.”
“The whole matter should be carefully scrutinized and those responsible should be held accountable as per law,” the cabinet said in a statement after the meeting.
The statement said a copy of the diplomatic cypher, based on a meeting between then Pakistani Ambassador to the US Asad Majeed and State Department official Donald Lu, was "missing" from the record of the PM's office.
“A copy of the cypher sent to the former prime minister was duly received at the PM House, but it is missing from the official record,” it said.
“The theft of the diplomatic cypher from the record is a serious matter.”
The special committee of the federal cabinet will include representatives from the government's coalition partners as well as ministers of foreign affairs, interior and law, according to the statement.
It said the cypher was given “self-serving meanings” for political mileage that hurt the national interest, and it was “stolen after fraud, forgery and fabrication.”
“This is severe violation of the constitutional oath, relevant laws and regulations, especially the Official Secrets Act,” it said.
“This is an unforgivable crime against the state as political interests were given preference over the key interests of the state.”
In the second cypher-related leak on Friday, Khan, his then principal secretary Azam Khan, and two members of his party, Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Asad Umar, could purportedly be heard strategizing the "foreign conspiracy."
The clip making the rounds on social media features a conversation between Khan and other aforementioned individuals about the cypher that the former premier has labelled as evidence of his “foreign conspiracy” claims.
A similar audio clip of a purported conversation between Khan and his principal secretary had surfaced earlier this week too.