The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Tuesday issued a notice to former finance minister Shaukat Tarin and instructed him to appear before the watchdog in person for an investigation into the audio clips attributed to him regarding the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme.
Last month, two audio clips surfaced via TV channels and social media in which a man said to be Tarin can be heard guiding Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab’s finance ministers to tell the federal government and the IMF that they would not be able to commit to a provincial budget surplus in light of the recent floods that have wrought havoc in Pakistan.
Previously, KP Finance Minister Taimur Khan Jhagra had written a letter to the Ministry of Finance conveying his administration’s inability to provide a provincial surplus this year.
The audios triggered criticism against the PTI as the ruling coalition alleged that they were nothing but a conspiracy to derail the state’s deal with the global lender. Later, Law Minister Azam Nazir Tarar said that a forensic audit of the leaks would be conducted.
In a notice issued to Tarin today, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, the FIA said that an inquiry has been initiated against him on the basis of an alleged audio call to Jhagra.
“In it, you are provoking him to write a letter to the federal government on behalf of the KP government that it will not return extra money of the fiscal budget so that interruption may be created between IMF and the Government of Pakistan.”
The agency, subsequently, directed the former finance minister to appear in person to record a version/statement in his defence at the FIA Cybercrime Reporting Centre in Islamabad on September 21 at 10am.
“In case of non-appearance, it will be assumed that you have nothing to present or state in your defense and procedure under Section 174 of the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860, will be initiated against you,” the FIA added.
The audio leaks
In the clips that surfaced on August 29, Tarin can be heard telling Punjab Finance Minister Mohsin Leghari and KP’s Taimur Jhagra to tell the federal government that provinces could not post a budget surplus — a key IMF condition.
“We only wanted the provincial finance minister to write to the federal government so “pressure falls on these b******* … they’re jailing us, filing terrorism charges against us and they’re going away completely scot-free. We can’t allow this to happen,” the voice purportedly of Tarin’s is heard telling Leghari.
Leghari asks Tarin whether the activity would hurt the state, to which Tarin responds: “Well … frankly speaking, isn’t the state suffering the way they are treating your chairman and everybody else? This will definitely happen that the IMF will ask ‘where will you arrange the money from’ and they (the government) will bring another mini-budget.”
Tarin further says that it could not be allowed that “they mistreat us and we stand on one side and they blackmail us in the name of the state and ask for help and we keep helping them”.
Later in the leaked conversation, Tarin tells Leghari that the mechanism of the information’s release to the public would be decided later.
“We will do something so it doesn’t seem we are hurting the state but we should at least present the facts that you won’t be able to give [budget surplus] so our commitment is zero.”
In the other audio, Tarin can be heard asking Jhagra whether he had drawn up a similar letter.
“[The IMF commitment] is a blackmailing tactic and no one will release money anyway. I won’t release them, I don’t know about Leghari,” says the man, alleged to be Jhagra.
Tarin says the letter, once drafted, would also be sent to the IMF representative so “these b******* know that the money they were forcing us into giving will be kept by us”.