By Muhammad Ahmad Noorani
ISLAMABAD: The Human Rights Watch, a New York-based organisation, on Friday released a highly controversial audio tape of Attorney-General of Pakistan Malik Mohammed Qayyum in which he talks about a rigging plan for Monday’s elections.
The audio, released on the website of HRW, was obtained by it from secret sources and the organisation accused the attorney-general of saying “that the upcoming parliamentary elections will be massively rigged”.
Malik Qayyum, while talking to The News, termed the recording fake and a conspiracy against him because he was a close aide of President Musharraf. He said the release of this fake audio was a conspiracy against him and the president.
The Human Rights Watch claims that the conversation was recorded when a journalist was interviewing Qayyum and he took another call, putting the journalist on hold. The said journalist was recording the call and thus conversation of Qayyum with an unidentified person was recorded ultimately.
In the recording, Qayyum appears to be advising an unidentified person on what political party the person should approach to become a candidate in the upcoming parliamentary elections. Human Rights Watch said that the recording was made during a phone interview with a member of the media on November 21, 2007. Qayyum, while still on the phone interview, took a call on another telephone and his side of that conversation was recorded.
The recording was made the day after the Election Commission announced the schedule for the polls. The election was originally planned for January 8 but was postponed after the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. Nawaz Sharif returned to Pakistan on November 25.
An English translation of the recording, which is in Urdu and Punjabi, follows: “Leave Nawaz Sharif (pause)… I think Nawaz Sharif will not take part in the election (pause)… If he does take part, he will be in trouble. If Benazir takes part she too will be in trouble (pause)… They will massively rig to get their own people to win. If you can get a ticket from these guys, take it (pause)… If Nawaz Sharif does not return himself, then Nawaz Sharif has some advantage. If he comes himself, even if after the elections rather than before (pause). Yes.”
The HRW press release also claimed that its repeated attempts to contact Qayyum by phone were unsuccessful. It said in February 2001, the Sunday Times published a report based on transcripts of 32 audio tapes, which revealed that Qayyum convicted Benazir Bhutto and Zardari for political reasons. The transcripts of the recordings reproduced by the newspaper showed that Qayyum asked the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s anti-corruption chief, Saifur Rehman, for advice on the sentence: “Now you tell me how much punishment do you want me to give her?”
London-based Brad Adams, director Asia region-HRW, was asked by The News to comment on Malik Qayyum’s view that the release of the audio just two days before the elections was a conspiracy.
Brad replied that his organisation had got this audio recording some three days back and as being an international NGO, it had first confirmed the voice signatures of Malik Qayyum and then tried its best to contact him for his version.
Brad, however, refused to mention or give any hint regarding the source from which it had taken the audio. Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director of HRW, when asked by The News that whether his NGO had got this recording from some of its staff here in Pakistan or from some intelligence agency, said that he could not speak about the source.
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To a question that Pakistani government sees the release of the recording as a conspiracy, he said: “Its silly to talk like that, the government should feel sorry what it has planned for elections.”
Malik Qayyum told The News that HRW did not take his version and that it did not know about the identification of the person to which he was talking, which automatically raised questions about the authenticity of the recording.