Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar on Wednesday said that the federal government has decided to conduct a forensic audit of audio leaks attributed to PTI Senator Shaukat Tarin regarding the crucial International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme.
On Monday, 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 wreaked havoc in Pakistan.
Last week, 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 government’s deal with the global lender.
Addressing the issue at a press conference in Islamabad today, Tarar said: “Consultation with the interior and law ministries are underway […] we have decided on a forensic audit of the audio conversations and once the consultative process is complete, it will be acted upon and action taken as per the law.”
The law minister said that legal action would be taken against those who “raised their hands against the state or spoke against its interests”.
Tarar termed the affair “very painful” and said that the former finance minister’s conversation and direction amounted to “hypocrisy and sedition” against the state and its interests.
He said that the government ministers undertook oaths at the time of appointment in which they pledged to only follow the law in discharging their duties instead of listening to anyone else.
“After that conversation, it seems the PTI’s KP finance minister (Jhagra) strayed from fulfilling his oath and the former finance minister (Tarin), whom this was not expected of, crossed all limits and prioritised politics over the state.”
A day ago, an application was filed with Islamabad police to register a treason case against PTI Chairman Imran Khan, Tarin and incumbent finance ministers of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Mohsin Khan Leghari and Taimur Khan Jhagra.
The application, available with Dawn, was submitted by the founder and chairman of Aman Taraqi Party, Mohammad Faiq Shah, at the Kohsar police station.
The complainant had requested the police to take legal action against all four suspects.
The audio leaks
In the clips that surfaced on Monday, 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 — an IMF demand.
“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 that 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”.