February 14, 2023
ISLAMABAD – The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Monday booked former finance minister Shaukat Tarin in a sedition case pertaining to his alleged attempt to derail a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
In August, a pair of audio leaks had surfaced in which a man, purportedly Tarin, was heard guiding Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab finance ministers, belonging to the PTI, to tell the coalition government in the Centre and the IMF that they would not be able to commit to a provincial budget surplus in light of the monsoon floods that wrought havoc across Pakistan.
In a notice issued to Tarin in September, the FIA said an inquiry had been initiated against his alleged role on the basis of the audio leak.
Informed sources had told Dawn that the FIA, which completed a preliminary inquiry into Tarin’s audio leaks, saw his leaked conversations as an “attempt to disrupt” the IMF loan programme and funds, thereby causing harm to the national interest. It had subsequently approached the government with the request to initiate legal proceedings against the ex-finance czar.
On Sunday, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said that the government has given FIA permission to arrest Tarin.
The first information report (FIR), a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, registered by the sub-inspector of FIA’s cybercrime today, said that Tarin with “malafide intentions and ulterior motives” induced sitting provincial finance ministers of Punjab and KP — Taimur Jhagra and Mohsin Leghari.
It recalled that two phone call audio clips of the former finance minister with Leghari and Jhagra, which had gone viral, were thoroughly heard and analysed.
“Shaukat Tarin clearly asked the finance ministers to write letters stating that their respective ministries will not return the surplus budget to the federal government, which will critically affect the then ongoing deals between the Government of Pakistan and IMF regarding the economic situation of the state,” the complaint stated.
It said that during the inquiry, Tarin was summoned and questioned regarding the alleged clips but he failed to provide satisfactory answers. “This implied that the accused is hiding facts regarding the instant matter and lying about his intentions and motive behind the alleged conversation.
“Such mischievous acts may disrupt public tranquillity and create an ill-will among pillars of the state. It is likely to cause a sense of fear, alarm and intimidation to every citizen of the state due to the economic situation of Pakistan. Thus, the alleged conversation is considered an act of sedition against the state,” the FIR said.
It added that a case under Section 20 (Malicious code) of the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 and sections 124-A (Sedition) and 505 (Statements conducing to public mischief) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) has been registered against Tarin.
IMF audio leaks
In the alleged phone calls, the man thought of to be Tarin was asking Mohsin Leghari and Taimur Jhagra to do a volte-face citing provincial surplus.
“We only wanted the provincial finance minister to write to the federal government so “pressure falls on these b******* … they’re jailing us, filing terrorism charges against us and they’re going away completely scot-free. We can’t allow this to happen,” the voice purportedly of Tarin’s is heard telling Leghari.
In the same audio tape, when Leghari asks Tarin if the activity would hurt the state, the latter responds: “Well … frankly speaking, isn’t the state suffering the way they are treating your chairman and everybody else? This will definitely happen that the IMF will ask ‘where will you arrange the money from’ and they (the government) will bring another mini-budget.”
Tarin says it could not be allowed “they mistreat us and we stand on one side and they blackmail us in the name of the state and ask for help and we keep helping them”.
Later in the leaked conversation, Tarin tells Leghari that the mechanism of the information’s release to the public would be decided later. “We will do something so it doesn’t seem we are hurting the state but we should at least present the facts that you won’t be able to give [budget surplus] so our commitment is zero.”
In the other audio, Tarin can be heard asking Jhagra whether he had drawn up a similar letter. “[The IMF commitment] is a blackmailing tactic and no one will release money anyway. I won’t release them, I don’t know about Leghari,” says the man said to be Jhagra.
The former federal minister says the letter, once drafted, would also be sent to the IMF representative so “these b******* know that the money they were forcing us into giving will be kept by us”. Tarin, however, said the audio was ‘tampered’. It was a crime to tap someone’s conversation, which was leaked after being tampered with, he added.