FIA books Shaukat Tarin over sedition charges after govt’s nod

Staff Report

ISAMABAD: A sedition case has been registered against the former finance minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Senator Shaukat Tarin with the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) Cybercrime Wing for allegedly sabotaging negotiations between Pakistan and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The case was filed against the former finance minister under Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016 Section 20 over his alleged audio leak that had surfaced on the internet. Sections 124-A and 505 of Pakistan Penal Code have also been included in the first information report (FIR).
The FIR was filed by Arshad Mehmood. Sunday, the coalition government allowed the FIA to arrest the former finance minister after the agency sought the interior ministry’s nod to detain him. The FIA completed its probe against Tarin and his leaked audios involving the former Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa finance ministers.
The federal probing authority initiated an inquiry into the matter last year after the alleged telephonic conversations between Tarin and the two provincial finance ministers surfaced that triggered a verbal spat between the government and the PTI for purportedly trying to jeopardise the IMF deal after the devastating floods.
Last year, ahead of IMF’s board meeting to approve Pakistan’s bailout package, the PTI leader allegedly made telephone calls to former Punjab and KP finance ministers asking them to write letters to the IMF withdrawing from the commitment for the surplus budget.
The leaked audio came to the fore on the day that the international lender’s executive board was scheduled to meet for considering Pakistan’s request of releasing the $1.2 billion tranche under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF).Tarin allegedly asked former Punjab finance minister Mohsin Leghari to withdraw from the IMF’s deal and tell the lender that the commitment Punjab made was pre-floods and now the province “cannot honour it” due to unprecedented losses.
“You have signed a Rs750 billion [surplus] commitment with the IMF. You now need to tell them that the commitment you made was before the floods, and now [Punjab] has to spend a lot of funds for [the] floods [rehabilitation].”
“You need to say now that ‘we will not be able to honour our commitment’,” Tarin said, telling Leghari that this is all he wants – for pressure to increase on the incumbent government.

The PTI leader told the former Punjab finance minister to draft a letter and send it to him for vetting so it could be sent to the federal government and later on to the IMF representative in Pakistan.

At Tarin’s request, Leghari asked whether Pakistan would suffer if Punjab — the largest province of Pakistan — withdraws from the deal.

“Well, frankly isn’t the state already suffering because of the way they are treating your chairman [Khan] and everybody else? IMF will definitely ask them: where will you get the money from now?” Tarin responded.

Tarin said that this could not go on further and the party could not bear being “mistreated” and not respond. “We cannot be blackmailed,” the PTI leader said.
In another leaked audio, Tarin could be heard asking former KP finance minister Taimur Jhagra if he had written the letter.

“I am on the way. I have the previous letter. I will send the letter to you after drafting it,” replied the former KP finance minister.

Tarin directed Jhagra that the key point of his letter should be the floods devastations in the province.

“First point [of the letter] would be that we need huge financial aid for restoration of infrastructure and rehabilitation of flood affectees,” Tarin told the former KP finance minister, adding that he has already briefed Punjab’s finance minister about it. “By the way, this is a blackmailing tactic,” he said, adding that nobody leaves money.