An audio recording of an alleged telephonic conversation between Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and real estate tycoon Malik Riaz was widely reported by the electronic media and shared on social media on Saturday, where the latter could be heard telling the former that Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan was desperate for a “patch-up” with him.

The leaked audio recording, in which the voices were believed by many to be of Zardari and Riaz, came to the fore two days after Imran abruptly ended a planned anti-government sit-in in Islamabad amid speculation of behind-the-scenes contacts between him and the establishment.

Though the PTI immediately declared the audio “fake”, the PPP leadership remained tight-lipped, while a number of party leaders said it “seemed genuine”.

In the almost 32-second conversation, the date and time of which is not confirmed, Riaz can be heard telling Zardari that Imran had been sending him messages asking him to help “patch up” with the PPP.

“Today, he (Imran Khan) has sent too many messages,” the voice believed to be of Riaz told the former president, who in response says: “It is impossible now.”

“It’s okay. I just wanted to bring this into your notice,” said Riaz’s alleged voice.

The following is the script of the alleged tape:

Asif Zardari: Hello!

Malik Riaz: Assalamualikum sir. 

Asif Zardari: Wa-Alaikum As-Salam. Is everything ok (Khairiat).

Malik Riaz: Sir, I just wanted to inform you about a matter that I have told you about before. I had told you that I wanted to talk to you about something and you told me that we would discuss it later. I just wanted to say that he [Khan] has sent me several messages for mediating a patch-up between you and him, and today, he has sent several messages to me.

Asif Zardari: It’s impossible now.

Malik Riaz: Yes, that’s fine, I just wanted to bring this matter to your notice.

When contacted, a number of senior PPP leaders said they were not aware of the timing of the purported phone call, but they could confirm that Malik Riaz had been playing the role of a mediator after submission of the no-confidence resolution against Imran in the National Assembly by the then opposition parties.

Another PPP leader, while claiming that the alleged audio seemed genuine, questioned who was taping the telephones of the former president. It was a serious matter and should be probed, he added.

Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz during his address at a public meeting in Bahawalpur also referred to the leaked conversation and claimed it had been proved how Imran Khan was begging for a deal.

On the other hand, PTI spokesman Dr Shahbaz Gill through his Twitter handle termed the audio recording a “lie” and “far from reality”.

“A businessman and an opponent of Imran Khan are talking about things that have nothing to do with reality. Imran does not require an NRO. Instead, all these people kept seeking an NRO (from Imran) which they didn’t get,” tweeted Gill minutes after the alleged conversation surfaced.

He added: “This story is a lie…. at least, a strong script should have been written.”

Malik Riaz has not yet said anything about the tape.

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