Pakistan: Leaked tape suggests ousted PM Imran Khan reached out to Zardari ahead of no-trust vote

Khan, who was ousted from power last month through a no-trust vote, had apparently lost the support of the Army after he refused to endorse the appointment of the ISI spy agency chief last year

FPJ Web DeskUpdated: Sunday, May 29, 2022, 01:45 PM IST
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Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan | AFP

A leaked audio recording of an alleged telephonic conversation between former Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and real estate tycoon Malik Riaz Hussain has surfaced, in which Riaz was heard as saying that ousted prime Minister Imran Khan wanted to reach out to Zardari for reconciliation talks ahead of the no-trust vote in Parliament last month.

The 32-second audio recording, believed to be the voices of Zardari and Riaz respectively, has gone viral on social media, and comes days after Khan was abruptly ended his anti-government sit-in amid speculation that there was a deal struck between the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistan Army.

In the purported conversation, the date of which cannot be ascertained, Riaz could be heard telling Zardari that Khan was sending him messages, the Dawn newspaper reported.

"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," the Dawn report said, quoting Riaz's alleged voice.

While the PTI immediately dismissed the audio as "fake," members of Zardari's party, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) said it "seemed genuine," the report said.

"A business personality and an anti-Imran Khan politician are having a conversation which is being attributed to Imran Khan. However, the conversation has nothing to do with reality," The Express Tribune newspaper quoted PTI leader Shahbaz Gill as saying.

Khan, who was ousted from power last month through a no-trust vote, had apparently lost the support of the Army after he refused to endorse the appointment of the ISI spy agency chief last year.

He has been claiming that the no-trust motion against him was the result of a "foreign conspiracy" because his independent foreign policy and funds were being channelled from abroad to oust him from power.

He has named the US as the country behind the conspiracy, a charge denied by Washington.

Khan on Friday dismissed reports that he struck a deal with the Pakistan Army to end his massive "Azadi rally" demanding fresh general elections, asserting that he had decided to end his march to avoid bloodshed.

"I had observed anger among the people against the police after what they did to stop the march, and there was a fear that if we continued to march as announced, the country would plunge into chaos and anarchy," Khan said.

"Do not think it was our weakness and don't think that a deal was made. I am hearing strange things that a deal was made with the establishment. I did not make a deal with anyone," he said, referring to the reported role of the powerful military establishment in ending the rally by PTI activists.

He warned that he would return to the Pakistani capital with the entire nation if the "imported government" failed to announce fresh general elections within the six-day deadline, prompting Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to retort back that his "dictation won't work" and Parliament would decide the date for polls.

Last week, Khan had asked his supporters to march peacefully to Islamabad on May 25 to press for the dissolution of the National Assembly and fresh elections in the country.

The 69-year-old cricketer-turned-politician, however, insisted that he would announce a massive rally again if early elections are not ordered by the government.

He emphasised that his party would not deal with or accept the "imported government" headed by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

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