Leaked audio reveals embarrassing Maryam, Pervaiz exchange to keep anchors on leash

ISLAMABAD: A leaked audio of a conversation between Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz and her political adviser Pervaiz Rashid revealed an embarrassing exchange about how to keep independent journalists in the Jang group “abusing” and “making fun” of the party from doing so through the group’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mir Shakeel ur-Rehman.

The recording, shared by ARY News and Samaa TV, appears to show Rashid saying: “They [Geo News] have a programme ‘Score Card’ […] you are aware [journalist] Hasan Nisar — who abuses us [the party] a lot — sits on the panel.” Here, the former minister is apparently referening to the programme “Report Card”.

At this point, Nawaz chimes in, saying another anchorperson Irshad Bhatti also appears on the programme. Rashid responds by saying Bhatti too “talks very vulgarly” of the party.

The two then speak about another Jang group veteran Mazhar Abbas who Rashid claims is “tilted against us [PML-N] and spins [things] to make fun of us”.

“Nobody there can be called our spokesperson. [Hafeezullah Niazi] did not give our point of view but the way they abuse us […] he used to treat Imran Khan the same way but they [channel’s management] have removed him and discontinued his column as well,” Rashid says.

Rashid also mentions Babar Sattar, who used to be a part of the TV show before his appointment to high court as a judge, calling him an independent journalist.

Nawaz again interrupts the “uncle” to add she would first ask Niazi, who is the brother-in-law of the prime minister, the reason behind his removal from the show and then take up the matter with Rehman.

“It will become an imbalanced programme. If there was a check on Imran Khan, you have ended it and [imposed] barking dogs on us,” Rashid adds.

“Indeed, this is bias,” Nawaz responds.

Towards the end of the clip, Nawaz instructs Rashid that a pair of baskets that her father Nawaz Sharif brought from Azerbaijan be sent to journalists Nusrat Javed and Rana Jawad.

Responding to the contents of the recording, Minister of State for Information Farrukh Habib lambasted the party, declaring the PML-N had “vast experience and [expertise] of blackmailing and controlling freedom of media”.

Condemning the contents of the audio, he said the PML-N “always kept the media under pressure to use it for their vested interests”.

He claimed the opposition party in the past as well curbed the freedom of media and journalists who spoke against it.

The audio exposed how the party members were playing tricks to control the freedom of the press.

This is the third such recording attributed to Nawaz in as many months. However, she has accepted only the first as authentic.

In November, Nawaz admitted that an eight-second clip, in which she can be heard suspending the award of government advertisement to Channel 24Samaa92 News and ARY News was genuine.

Barely a month later, another audio recording emerged wherein Nawaz seemed to be praising her “media management”. “Look at my media management. Geo News and Dunya News have [ruined the ruling party],” she said in the clip.

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