It looks like the audio leaks—as serious as they were—have taken a backseat in comparison to the ongoing political tussle. The government’s decision to open an inquiry against Imran Khan and others as a result of the leaks during which the fable of the US cipher was discussed is evidence of this. It is clear that Imran Khan and his close confidantes misled the public into believing that foreign intervention was the reason for his government’s ouster. The audio leaks only confirm what was previously known. But the government is looking to use this as ammunition in its fight against the PTI leader’s rising support.
The FIA is being tasked to look into formulating a case against both Imran Khan and other party leaders heard in the various clips. The issue gets more controversial by the day as over the weekend, the government announced that a copy of the ‘cypher’ was missing, while PTI saw this as proof that the ‘cypher’ existed in the first place.
At this point, the words ‘cypher’, ‘letter’ and ‘meeting transcript’ are all being used interchangeably, and this confusion works in the PTI’s favour. The public—at least the faction that supports Imran Khan—still does not understand that the statement of the US not being happy to work with the PTI government was not an official stance, but more an interpretation of the ties between the two countries at the time. The government would do well to focus on clarifying this misconception rather than doubling down on its fight against PTI.
The FIA inquiry will also be undoubtedly spun by the PTI stalwarts as proof of Imran Khan’s stance. The two sides are more polarised than ever, and a one-sided inquiry will do nothing to mend bridges—it will have the exact opposite effect in fact. It would have been better for the government to first plug the leaks in the PM’s office and affix responsibility, and then move on to investigating specific leaks, as the way the leaks surfaced indicates that this was a calculated move to implicate both sides in controversy. Political leaders need to realise that these petty squabbles are only costing the country and our system of governance. Our priority should be to first ensure that state secrets and issues of national security are not leaked out through the PM’s office. Since this has happened to two sitting PMs, all other concerns should take a backseat.