An audio recording of an alleged conversation, purportedly between Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and a government official, was leaked on social media on Saturday, with Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leaders claiming that it shows the PM putting his family’s business interests before those of the state.
In the over two-minute-long audio clip, shared by PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry on his Twitter account on Saturday, a voice, said to be that of PM Shehbaz, can be heard saying that Maryam Nawaz had asked him to facilitate her son-in-law Raheel with the import of machinery for a power plant, from India.
“If we do so, we will get a lot of flak when this matter goes to the ECC and cabinet,” the official can be heard saying.
At this, the voice thought to be of the PM says: “The son-in-law is very dear to Maryam Nawaz. Tell her very logically about this and then I will talk to her.”
The same voice also agrees with the perception that this would be bad for optics and may cause a lot of trouble, politically.
It is worth noting that Maryam Nawaz’s daughter Mehrunnisa married industrialist Chaudhry Munir’s son Raheel in December 2015. The wedding was notable because it was also attended by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The other voice in the clip then brings up another matter related to the housing society belonging to Maryam’s son-in-law.
He says a grid station had to be installed in the Ittehad Park Housing Society, which the PM said should be dealt with in a “national way”.
The government official also suggested that former finance minister Ishaq Dar should be engaged to deal with this matter, who could handle it in a better way.
At the end of the purported audio, there is a mention of former Justice Maqbool Baqir, whose name was being considered as the next head of the National Accountability Bureau. The official is heard conveying to the premier the ‘suggestion’ of two media persons, asking him not to consider the former judge for the slot of NAB chairman, in view of their experience with former NAB chief Javed Iqbal, who was also a retired judge appointed by the PML-N government.
This exchange helps to put a timeline on the purported audio, as the matter of the NAB chief’s appointment was in the news around two months ago. Subsequently, former Intelligence Bureau (IB) chief Aftab Sultan was picked to lead the NAB.
Meanwhile, the Etihad Group on Sunday clarified its position vis-a-vis an alleged audio leak being circulated.
In a statement, the group said the said power plant was almost complete when trade with India was halted. The project is being completed with Chinese assistance in line with the advice of the federal government.
The grid station, on the other hand, is still not in place. The project has not proceeded despite a Lahore High Court ruling in favour of Etihad Group.
The Etihad Group statement added: “The power plant in question was almost complete when imports from India were banned in 2020 and is being completed with China because the Federal govt advised even though it’s unfair but not to apply due to relationship with Maryam Nawaz.”
According to the statement, “No favour was sought nor received for power plant or Grid station, Etihad Group categorically refutes use of any political influence.”
The group also issued a “To whom it may concern” letter that reads as follows:
“An audio of PM Shabaz Sharif has been leaked on 24/09/2022. In that audio there was a conversation about two projects owned by the family of Maryam Nawaz Sharif’s Son in Law.
“It has been portrayed in media that Maryam Nawaz Sharif is asking for a favour for her Son in law, whereas the truth is quite contradictory to this.
“It is being assumed that Maryam Nawaz Sharif has asked the government to allow her son in law to import an Indian power plant.
“Whereas the truth is, 60% of this power plant has been completed before 2020. In 2020 a complete ban on Indian imports was implemented.
“Owing to this confusing policy, we wanted a clarity from the government that because of the sensitive relationship with Maryam Nawaz Sharif, should we apply to the government to allow us that we should complete our project as it was started before the ban?
“The government replied that even though it is unfair to you that the policy has been changed during the construction of your plant, due to the sensitivity of the relationship we would advise not to apply and find an alternative.
“We respectfully welcomed the government’s decision and moved forward to complete the remaining project with China.
It is being assumed that a favour is being asked to provide a grid station to a housing scheme owned by the family of Maryam Nawaz Sharif’s Son in law.
“The truth is that, a DISCO refused to put up a grid station and provide electricity to the housing project. We thought that the DISCO is being unfair, hence we went to Lahore High Court in 2020 and won the case against the DISCO. However, till date the grid station is still not in place.
“Any documentation in relation to both cases is available upon request.”