A new alleged audio of former first lady Bushra Bibi and Arsalan Khalid, the focal person to PTI Chairman Imran Khan on digital media, went viral on social media over the weekend, with the party offering conflicting statements on whether or not it considers it genuine.
The alleged audio appears to be a phone call between Bushra and Khalid in which the former is heard expressing disappointment over the functioning of the PTI’s social media team. Claiming that the PTI had started tagging PTI opponents as ‘traitors’ on the instructions of the ousted prime minister, she questioned why this campaign had slowed down in recent days.
“Imran Khan asked you to [operate] the traitor hashtag; so many people called, your social media was active and it has not been active for a week,” she said, adding that what was done was done but it was now time to prep for the next stage of the campaign. She said that PTI dissident Aleem Khan and others would soon start speaking against Imran Khan, herself, and her friend Farah Khan and said this should be countered.
“They will create so many stories and will share people’s statements as well, you do not need to create an issue out of this, call them traitors on [social media],” she directed Khalid, who said this would be done. “Aleem Khan and others will speak as per a plan, so you have to link them with traitor,” she allegedly instructed. “You have to raise the [U.S. threat] letter on social media and say that we know the letter is authentic. We know that they gathered to betray [the country] and to save themselves they have joined the traitors,” she claimed.
“Now you have to ensure that [this issue] does not die down,” the former first lady is allegedly heard saying. “The other thing that I wanted to say to you, Arsalan, is that they will say a lot of things about Farah and me. You have to link that with traitor,” she said, adding that anyone questioning how Khan had been aware of the so-called conspiracy in advance should also be branded a traitor.
According to Geo News anchor Shehzad Iqbal, Khalid refused to confirm or deny the contents of the alleged audio to him. He said the PTI worker had merely said that the people who leaked the audio should be questioned on its accuracy. By contrast, in a posting on Twitter, he claimed that the voices in the audio had been “edited” by splicing together “thousands” of recorded clips.
In a press conference on Sunday, Imran Khan’s Chief of Staff Shahbaz Gill also claimed the audio clip was “fabricated” and accused the government of running an “organized campaign” to discredit the former first lady. He also threatened to make public the contents of phones of PMLN leaders who had been arrested during the PTI’s tenure.
In a press conference on Monday afternoon, PTI leader Shireen Mazari appeared to offer tacit admission for the veracity of the call by saying only a forensic investigation could determine if it was fake. Instead, she directed her ire at the “illegal wire-tapping” that had produced it, noting that the Supreme Court had declared phone tapping unconstitutional.
Maintaining that the conversation was “cut and pasted,” she said it was not “political” and claimed this was all part of a “conspiracy” against the PTI. “This was [leaked] by the people who brought this government into power,” she claimed, in an apparent reference to the security establishment, who the PTI has repeatedly urged to force early elections by ousting the incumbent government.