2021 was a year of leaked videos and audios that charged Pakistan’s political atmosphere. Judges, politicians and ministers – all of them found themselves in these leaks, though most of them denied the contents of the tapes.
In addition to the controversy that came with them, the leaks also stirred a country-wide debate for laws to regulate social media.
Were they doctored or not is beside the point, as their importance can be gauged by the fact that some of them are still being discussed in the media and courts.
The five most controversial leaks are as follows
Ex-CJP’s purported audio leak
This audiotape is at the top for the controversy it generated. In an audiotape released by senior journalist Ahmad Noorani, former CJP Saqib Nisar can purportedly be heard making comments about former PM Nawaz Sharif’s corruption case. In the tape, he allegedly said Nawaz along with his daughter Maryam Nawaz had to be sentenced whether or not he was guilty.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader and former governor of Sindh, Muhammad Zubair found himself in the news after an alleged sex tape of him with an unidentified woman started making rounds on social media. Zubair termed the tape doctored. But the tape was not probed and the matter was quietly buried.
In February 2021, a video of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa MPAs was leaked on social media which showed them purportedly receiving money for voting for the PPP candidates in the 2018 Senate polls. The video showed a man handing over large sums of money, reportedly Rs20 million, to various K-P Assembly lawmakers from the ruling PTI as well as some other parties. The K-P law minister also lost his portfolio after he appeared in the video.
In the 2021 elections, the opposition’s joint nominee Yousaf Raza Gilani defeated government candidate Hafeez Sheikh, finance minister at the time, on a Senate seat from Islamabad in a surprise outcome.
How did the opposition manage to win this seat: Gilani attributed it to his across-the-aisle good contacts, while the government cried foul. However, in the lead-up to this election, a video of Gilani’s son, Ali Haider Gilani surfaced wherein he was seen telling MNAs how to trash their Senate vote. Haider Gilani admitted that the video was genuine and that he had met with the PTI MNAs to “discuss things related to the polls”. A plea against the disqualification of Yousaf Raza Gilani was filed subsequently.
Maryam on ‘media management’
PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz who is leading the charge against ex-CJP over his leaked audio found herself mired in controversy after two audio clips of hers were leaked to the internet.
She is often aggressive about her criticism of the powers-that-be. But in this leaked audio clip, she was heard bragging about her media management skills.In the audio clip, the PML-N leader could be heard saying, “Look at my media management. Geo News and Dunya News have [ruined them].”
In another clip, Maryam was heard issuing instructions to refuse advertisements to certain TV channels. She later confirmed it was her voice in the clip, while her party spokesperson said Maryam was referring to party ads.