Tarin charged with sedition for ‘sabotage attempt’ on IMF accord

— FIR registered despite unclear origin of conversations leaked last year, defying Supreme Court ruling

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has charged former finance minister Shaukat Tarin with sedition, months after he was recorded in leaked audio conversations appearing to guide his provincial counterparts from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab to tell the central government and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) the provinces would not be able to commit to a budget surplus due to the devastating effects of monsoon floods.

The agency, which said it conducted a preliminary inquiry into the matter, deemed Tarin’s actions as an attempt to derail the loan programme and funds, thereby causing harm to the “national interest”.

With the government’s permission, the FIA is now authorised to arrest the banker, said Rana Sanaullah Khan, the interior minister.

The first information report (FIR), registered by the sub-inspector of the agency’s cybercrime wing, alleges that Tarin, with “malicious intentions and ulterior motives,” induced the sitting finance ministers of the provinces of Punjab and KP, Taimur Jhagra and Mohsin Leghari.

It cites his conversations with the finance ministers, the origin of which remains unclear to this day. It, however, says the clips were thoroughly analysed.

The complaint further says that Tarin asked the finance ministers to write letters stating that their respective ministries would not return the surplus budget to the federal government, which would critically affect the ongoing deals between the government and the IMF.

During the inquiry, he was summoned and questioned about the alleged clips, but he failed to provide satisfactory answers, implying that he was hiding facts and lying about his intentions and motives.

The FIR argues that Tarin’s actions could disrupt public tranquillity, create ill-will among pillars of the state, and cause fear, alarm, and intimidation among citizens due to the economic situation of Pakistan, making it an act of sedition against the state.

The case has been registered under Section 20 (Malicious code) of the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), 2016, and sections 124-A (Sedition) and 505 (Statements conducting to public mischief) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).

Interestingly, the Supreme Court has previously ruled that audio and video evidence is not considered admissible until the individual who recorded it appears in court with the device and the original recording, or becomes a plaintiff.

It remains unclear if the original plaintiff, rumoured to be the intelligence wing of the military, has filed with the agency or if the statement was recorded.

The question of who recorded the phone call, which is the subject of the audio leak case, will need to be determined during the trial if the case proceeds, noted journalist Saqib Bashir.

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