Unabating string of leaks | By Dr Imran Khalid


Unabating string of leaks

AS expected, the latest episode of leaked audios on Friday has rekindled the high-octane exchange of arguments and counter-arguments between the PTI cyber warriors and anti-Imran Khan campaigners.

These leaked audios, purportedly linked to Imran Khan and his close associates talking about buying the MNAs to pre-empt a motion in the National Assembly, have practically smashed the whole narrative of Imran Khan about the so-called foreign conspiracy as well as his principled stand on “clean politics”.

If genuine, the content of these audios, at least for the time being, is apparently incriminating in nature; showing that the PTI was allegedly involved in massive horse trading, an insinuation that is seriously injurious considering the PTI has loudly condemned the practice of horse trading and resorted to the courts to put a permanent plug on this phenomenon.

It also confirms that the PTI, contrary to earlier claims about being a principled and Asool Pasand political outfit, is not different from other parties when it comes to manoeuvring through bribes.

First two leaks had already punctured Khan’s putrefied narrative, however, the content of the third audio has destroyed the very core of his flawed storyline.

Regardless of the legality and authenticity of these leaked audios, a damage – though not that much serious – has been done to Imran Khan’s self-created image of an honest and courageous politician.

But this is not how majority of Imran Khan’s followers think. If the objective behind the leak of these audios is to dissuade and dishearten Imran Khan’s supporters before the start of his planned long march, then it is not likely to yield anything tangible at all.

These leaked audios will not cause any dent to Imran Khan’s current popularity among his staunch supporters.

Imran Khan has proven to be one of the most effective populist leaders in recent times and his supporters have gone into a different kind of trance where they are not likely to believe any “stuff” against him as reliable.

Imran Khan is now more than a politician – a cult leader. This type of devotion of political workers was witnessed in the 1970s when jiyalas of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto introduced a new kind of culture in Pakistani politics.

However, the cult of Imran Khan is far different and stout than the Bhutto-ism. Imran Khan’s cult is an undeniable reality of our politics, and he has been able to carve himself – in the eyes of his followers – as an epitome of truth, honesty, integrity and courage.

Interestingly, the first two audio leaks in the previous weeks were hesitantly accepted by the PTI leadership as genuine.

Imran Khan and his team knew that two initial audio leaks were just a teaser, and the “hackers” had much nasty stuff in their bag that would be released in the pre-planned sequence.

Imran Khan, knowing well the explosive aspects of his own deeds behind the closed doors which are supposedly recorded by some unknown elements, wanted to create doubts about the authenticity of such material.

That’s why, since last week, Imran Khan has started talking about the methodology and techniques of preparing the “tempered audios”.

Even in his jalsa at Mianwali the other day, he talked about the technology of “deepfake audios and videos” and also played the “tempered audio of Mian Nawaz Sharif” to mentally prepare his followers about “acutely dangerous” stuff that was likely to be released in the coming days – including some videos.

Since Friday evening, unlike the previous two chapters of leaked audios which were readily accepted by the PTI as authentic, the PTI supporters and leadership has suddenly started targeting the new audios are fabricated and concocted in a laboratory.

The social media has been bombarded by the PTI’s keyboard combatants who have started a massive campaign against the recent audio.

This was not the case after the release of previous two audios. There is no doubt that such stuff is not going to push any of the die-hard PTI supporters away from Imran Khan, however, still there is a palpable chunk of lukewarm or borderline supporters who are likely to be affected by this new development.

The frantic campaign reflects a serious anxiety and nervousness in the PTI camp. Rumours are rife that a few more unpleasant audios as well as videos are in the pipeline and will be released soon.

Perhaps this is the main reason behind this frenzy of the PTI leadership to create a powerful story line to preempt and muffle the effect of the current and “coming soon” audios and videos.

The social media is flooded with the PTI supporters’ posts educating the public about the technical aspects of tampered audio and videos.

Interestingly, none of the PTI leaders has so far demanded the forensic analysis of these audios – probably they are also not confident about the tampered nature of the audios.

On the other hand, the audio leak, if true, has once again raised the pricking questions about the security lapses in the government offices and buildings.

How two sitting Pakistani prime ministers were being illegally surveilled within the premises of the PM Office and their private interactions being leaked to the public.

Though Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan has issued a statement that investigations into the audio leak have found no involvement of any local or foreign intelligence agency in the leaks.

This statement by the Interior Minister has, in fact, complicated the whole issue. If no intelligence agency is involved, then who has such technology to conduct these kinds of activities in high security buildings?

Rana Sanaullah claims that these recording were made by the individuals and hackers scooping into the mobile phones of these individuals.

It is very unfortunate to see the lukewarm interest of the government to trace the actual culprits just because the target is their opponents.

This is a very serious breach of national security, if any banned outfit or non-state actors get access to such a sensitive material, it can play havoc with the national security.

—The writer is political analyst, based in Karachi.


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