Audio leaks controversy: Pakistani PM accuses predecessor Imran Khan of treason

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, center, addresses a Press Conference at the Prime Minister House in Islamabad on October 6, 2022. (PID)
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Updated 06 October 2022

Audio leaks controversy: Pakistani PM accuses predecessor Imran Khan of treason

  • Imran Khan inflicted ‘irreparable damage’ on Pakistan’s reputation, PM says
  • PM Shehbaz Sharif says audio leaks prove Khan committed 'real conspiracy'

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday accused his predecessor Imran Khan of committing treason by peddling the “foreign conspiracy” theory after his ouster from office in April, denying allegations his government had any hand in the recent audio leaks that have whipped up a political storm in the country.   

Khan has used a diplomatic cypher as the basis to accuse his political opponents of being part of a Washington-backed conspiracy to oust him from power. PM Sharif, his coalition government and the US have rejected Khan’s accusations.  

The matter once again became a topic of public debate after the emergence of another purported audio clip online last Friday. In the clip, Khan, his then principal secretary Azam Khan and two top aides, Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Asad Umar could purportedly be heard strategizing the "foreign conspiracy." 

“He [Khan] has committed treason against the people of Pakistan and has inflicted irreparable damage to Pakistan’s reputation and standing among the comity of nations,” Sharif said in a news conference in Islamabad.  

The government has constituted a high-powered panel to probe the recent audio leaks from the PM Office and has termed it a breach of national security.  

Sharif recalled the events of April 3, when the then opposition tabled a vote of no-confidence against Khan. The deputy speaker then, Qasim Suri, had dismissed the motion on the basis of the cypher.  

Khan subsequently dissolved the assembly, a summary of which was approved by President Arif Alvi within 20 minutes.  

“This was the foundation of the conspiracy,” he said, adding that Khan wasted the nation’s time for the next five months with his “foreign conspiracy” allegations.  

He accused Khan of confusing voters and referring to the US, said the former premier had “damaged Pakistan’s relations with the world’s biggest power.” 

 “Today all the links of that conspiracy stand connected to Imran Khan and there is solid evidence of it,” Sharif said.  

Sharif described Khan’s campaign against the government as “the worst dishonesty” and  accused his predecessor of playing with the country’s interests. 

“Is there any doubt left after that [audio leak] as to who committed the real conspiracy,” he asked, adding that his government was trying to repair Pakistan’s damaged relations with the US.  

“This is not less than any treason against the nation,” he said. “The whole nation has seen the faces of the conspirators.”  

PM Sharif said no one would place their trust in the Prime Minister’s Office after the emergence of the audio leaks. He added that “these audio leaks have rendered an irreparable loss to the nation and compensation for this loss was not easy.”  

“Thank God, Allah has vindicated us all,” he said, denying the government had any hand in leaking the clips. “He [Khan] is a fraudster who isolated the nation, attacked the armed forces by calling them neutral and chowkidar [gatekeeper],” the prime minister added.  

He recalled the invaluable services rendered by the armed forces in Pakistan’s war against militancy.  

Sharif said the cabinet had approved an investigation into the audio leaks. He said the nation would be apprised of the results of the probe.  

“This person [Khan] if imposed again on this country, will destroy Pakistan and its institutions,” he said. “He is the biggest threat, he will defame Pakistan.”  

Sharif said a cypher received from foreign missions cannot be decoded. “If it is, then all the cables from all embassies can be leaked or stolen,” he said, reiterating that the controversial cypher’s copy was still missing from the Prime Minister’s Office.  

“His [Khan’s] audio leaks have proven that there were four people behind the so-called conspiracy,” Sharif said. “What other evidence do you need?”  

On the army chief’s appointment, the prime minister said it would be done constitutionally. Pakistan’s current army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, is set to retire in November this year after six years in office.  

“It has a process in the law and the constitution, and it will be followed,” he said. “You need not worry about it.”  

Saudi development agency extends term of $3 billion deposit with Pakistan's central bank

Updated 02 December 2022

Saudi development agency extends term of $3 billion deposit with Pakistan's central bank

  • The deposit originally aimed to help Pakistan deal with financial repercussions in the wake of COVID-19
  • The Saudi Development Fund hopes the decision will help Pakistan handle external sector challenges

KARACHI: Pakistan's central bank said on Friday the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) had extended the term of a $3 billion deposit to shore up the country's economy which is currently going through a rough patch.
The deposit was made under an agreement signed between the State Bank of Pakistan and the Saudi development agency in November 2021 to support the South Asian state's dwindling foreign exchange reserves.
The Pakistani central bank announced in a Twitter post last September the SFD had confirmed the deposit's rollover for another year.
"The extension of the term of deposit is a continuation of the support provided by the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan," the State Bank said in a statement.
It noted the deposit originally aimed to help Pakistan deal with financial repercussions in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Saudi development agency also hoped in a Twitter post that its decision would make it easier for Pakistan "to meet external sector challenges & achieve sustainable economic growth."
According to Pakistan's central bank, the country's total liquid foreign reserves stood at $13.4 billion on November 25. The foreign exchange held by the State Bank amounted to $7.5 billion while the rest of it was with various commercial banks.
"It is a crucial development for Pakistan's economy since the amount of $3 billion is quite considerable," Dr. Khaqan Najeeb, former advisor to the finance ministry, told Arab News. "With $7.5 billion on November 25, Pakistan needs to ensure that the money deposited by all friendly countries is rolled over."
The development was also applauded by people from other walks of life, including the country's religious community that said Saudi Arabia had always cooperated with Pakistan.
"As a result of the meetings held between Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, it is clear that investment and cooperation from Saudi Arabia in Pakistan will further increase in the coming days," said chairman of the Pakistan Ulema Council Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Ashrafi.
He added the country was expected to hear "good news in the near future" from other Muslim countries like the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Turkey.

PM Sharif condemns 'assassination attempt' on Pakistan diplomat after embassy in Kabul comes under attack

Updated 02 December 2022

PM Sharif condemns 'assassination attempt' on Pakistan diplomat after embassy in Kabul comes under attack

  • The foreign office says a security guard was 'critically injured' while trying to save Pakistan's head of mission
  • Pakistan has demanded investigation into the incident while calling for security of its diplomatic personnel

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif condemned an "assassination attempt" against his country's head of mission in Afghanistan after Pakistan's embassy in Kabul was attacked on Friday.
The foreign office said in a statement a Pakistani security guard got "critically injured" while trying to protect the head of mission, Ubaid-ur-Rehman Nizamani, during the attack.
The statement also urged the Afghan interim administration to thoroughly investigate the incident, apprehend the culprits and hold them to account.
Prime Minister Sharif also expressed shock at the development while applauding the bravery of the security guard.
"I strongly condemn [the] dastardly assassination attempt on [Pakistani] Head of Mission [in] Kabul," he wrote in a Twitter post. "Salute to brave security guard, who took bullet to save his life."
"I demand immediate investigation & action against [the] perpetrators of this heinous act," he added.

While it is not clear who launched the attack, Pakistan's interior minister Rana Sanaullah said on Thursday Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a proscribed militant network, was enjoying "all sorts of facilities in Afghanistan."
Sanaullah issued the statement after a recent suicide bombing in the southwestern Balochistan province that targeted police providing security to polio workers.
The TTP claimed responsibility for the attack in Balochistan, making the Pakistani minister say it should be "a matter of concern" for the government in Kabul since the top leadership of the group was based in Afghanistan.
The Pakistan foreign office also asked the administration in Kabul to "take urgent measures to ensure the safety and security of Pakistani diplomatic personnel and citizens in Afghanistan."

Pakistan's top cricket board official says lifeless wickets not good advert for test cricket

Updated 02 December 2022

Pakistan's top cricket board official says lifeless wickets not good advert for test cricket

  • Ramiz Raja says Pakistan needs to prepare drop-in pitches at home similar to the ones in Australia
  • PCB chairman praises England for developing 'new template in test match cricket' by playing aggressively

RAWALPINDI: A top official of the Pakistan Cricket Board says the lifeless wicket for the test against England is not a great advertisement for the longer format of the game and that Pakistan needs to look for drop-in pitches.
“Not happy at all (with the pitch),” PCB chairman Ramiz Raja told reporters on Friday. “We may just get a result, but it’s just not a great advert.”
In its first test in Pakistan in 17 years, England racked up a monumental 657 in its first innings at a rapid pace of 6.5 an over with four of its five top batters — Harry Brook, Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett and Ollie Pope — smashing centuries.
Raja said Pakistan needs to prepare drop-in pitches at home similar to the ones in Australia to challenge teams like England, which has been playing an aggressive brand of cricket since Brendon McCullum took over as coach in June.
“I think our way out is for drop-in pitches here because all the surfaces (in Pakistan) are more or less the same,” Raja said. “If you want to nail England, for example, on a spinning track then we’ve got to prepare a drop-in pitch that turns from ball number one, rather than having a half-baked pitch which is neither quick nor spin a lot.”
The Pindi Cricket Stadium pitch was criticized during Australia’s tour in March when ICC match referee Ranjan Madugalle rated the wicket as below average after only 14 wickets fell in five days.
Raja was impressed with England’s aggressive intent, which has seen the team beating New Zealand and South Africa at home this summer under McCullum’s fearless approach.
“We’re seeing a new template in test match cricket, which is taking the game to the opposition,” Raja said. “There’s been a solid planning and a solid thought behind the entire exercise. It’s not like the button has switched on where you suddenly produce four centuries and a score of 500 in a day.
“We want Pakistan to change course. Let’s see whether we are able to do that or not, but it will take time for sub-continent teams to have that kind of mentality.”

Abdullah Shafique and Imam-ul-Haq Haq give Pakistan solid start after England's 657

Updated 02 December 2022

Abdullah Shafique and Imam-ul-Haq Haq give Pakistan solid start after England's 657

  • The home team still need 277 runs to avoid the follow-on after scoring 181 runs without loss
  • Haq, who scored a hundred against Australia in March, completed 1,000 runs in his 17th test

RAWALPINDI: Pakistan's openers got among the runs on a placid pitch Friday as they took the home team to 181 without loss in reply to England's mammoth 657 in the first Test in Rawalpindi.
At close on day two, Imam-ul-Haq (90) and Abdullah Shafique (89) were approaching hundreds when umpires called stumps with 17 overs remaining.
The home team still need 277 runs to avoid the follow-on.
The pitch was again unresponsive to bowlers as the England attack, led by James Anderson, toiled in the same manner as the home side.
Shafique was lucky to survive a confident caught behind appeal by Ollie Pope off a rising delivery. Although umpire Joel Wilson gave a soft signal for out, television official Marais Erasmus over-ruled it.
Haq, who scored a century in each innings on the same pitch in a Test against Australia in March, pushed spinner Jack Leach for two to complete 1,000 runs in his 17th Test.
Shafique, who also scored a hundred against Australia in the March test, cracked two boundaries to reach his fifth half-century in his eighth Test, highlighting his rapid progress.
Haq followed suit soon after, taking a single off Joe Root for his fifth half-century.
Earlier, resuming at 506-4, England added 151 runs in 125 minutes, with Harry Brook taking his overnight score of 101 to 153 -- one of four centurions in the innings.
Skipper Ben Stokes (41), debutant Liam Livingstone (nine), and Brook were all dismissed by pacer Naseem Shah, who finished with 3-140.
Leg-spinner Zahid Mahmood conceded 235 for his four wickets -- the most by a bowler on a Test debut.
Previously, Sri Lankan off-spinner Suraj Randiv conceded 222 against India in Colombo in 2010.
England's total is their highest against Pakistan in all Tests, improving on their 589-9 at Manchester in 2016.
On Thursday England became the first team to score 500 runs on the opening day of a Test match, bettering Australia's 112-year-old record of 494-6 against South Africa in Sydney.
Zak Crawley (122), Ollie Pope (108) and Ben Duckett (107) were the other centurions in the innings.
The three-match Test series is England's first in Pakistan for 17 years, having declined to tour in the interim because of security fears.

Pakistan appoints official at center of ex-PM Khan's cypher saga its new foreign secretary

Updated 02 December 2022

Pakistan appoints official at center of ex-PM Khan's cypher saga its new foreign secretary

  • Khan, who was removed from power via a no-trust vote in April, says his ouster was part of a foreign conspiracy
  • The former premier had built his narrative on an alleged cypher based on Asad Majeed's meeting with a US official

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has appointed its ambassador to Belgium, Dr. Asad Majeed, as the country's new foreign secretary, the Foreign Office said on Friday, whose name remained at the center of ex-prime minister Imran Khan's allegations of a foreign conspiracy to topple his government. 

Khan, who was ousted in a parliamentary no-trust vote in April, says he was dislodged from power as part of a United States-backed conspiracy for pursuing an independent foreign policy for the South Asian nation. 

The former premier said at the time his government had allegedly received a cypher based on a meeting between Majeed, who was then Pakistan's ambassador to the US, and State Department official Donald Lu.  

Washington and Khan's political opponents denied the allegations. 

"Dr. Asad Majeed Khan, presently posted as Pakistan’s Ambassador to Belgium, the European Union and Luxembourg has been appointed as the new Foreign Secretary," a Pakistani Foreign Office spokesperson said on Twitter. 




The post of the foreign secretary had been vacant for the last two months, since the retirement of Sohail Mehmood in late September. 

Before his retirement, Mehmood had posted then Pakistani ambassador to Italy, Jauhar Saleem, as the acting foreign secretary after the Foreign Office failed to finalize a name for the post. 

The Establishment Division has also notified Majeed's appointment with immediate effect and until further orders.