Intelligence Bureau (IB) has been ordered to investigate the purported bugging of the Prime Minister’s House after several audio leaks went viral on social media amid reports that a hacker put on sale on the dark web a massive data of recorded conversations not only of Shehbaz Sharif but also of his predecessor, Imran Khan.
This extraordinary breach has set alarm bells ringing as the audio leaks are not only of telephonic conversations. The first such leak, which was uploaded on social media, was a discussion between PM Shehbaz Sharif and his Principal Secretary Dr Tauqeer Shah in which the latter was heard saying that Maryam Nawaz had asked him to facilitate her son-in-law, Raheel Munir, with the import of machinery for a power plant from India.
The News has learnt that discussion between the two on this matter took place face-to-face, meaning thereby there were some bugging devices installed in the PM House. Dr Shah, in the leaked audio, has been heard saying that the facilitation in import would generate a controversy and the PM, agreeing with him, directed his PS to convey the same to Maryam and that he would also speak with her on this. In addition, Maryam wanted a grid station installed in a housing society owned by Raheel. On this, PM Sharif is heard saying this should be dealt with in a ‘national way.’
Another leaked clip making rounds on social media is related to Maryam’s complaining to PM Sharif against Finance Minister Miftah Ismail and the way he is running the official business as sky-rocketing inflation has hurt badly the poor segments of society. In one clip, the niece and uncle are discussing deteriorating health conditions of Pervez Musharraf and that the government should not stop him from coming to Pakistan if there is any such move. In yet another clip, there is a deliberation over the acceptance of PTI MNAs’ resignation and seeking advice from Nawaz Sharif on this issue.
This breach has occurred despite the fact that there is a practice of daily search to check if there is any bugging device installed in the PM’s Office or in his residential compound, a source told The News. This search is in line with Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) of the IB, which is the main agency assigned the security of the prime minister, his office and house.
Recalling a past incident, the source said that the security went on a high alert when Nawaz Sharif was the prime minister. As the proceeding in Supreme Court on the Panama Papers case was going on, a spy drone would hover over the residential compound of PM and later at the IB Headquarters, which is located in the adjacent building. The agency investigated the matter and conveyed to the concerned that the drone would be shot down if sent again.
The issue of spying also surfaced in 2010 and was reported by Ansar Abbasi. Almost whole of the federal government, its all the top offices and sensitive installations, including the Presidency, PM’s Secretariat, Federal Secretariat offices even including the interior ministry in the capital’s Red-Zone were purportedly being bugged by certain foreign missions and their operators.
A top government official dealing with internal security, revealed that modern bugging technology that uses rays to listen what is discussed in a closed-door meeting even at a distance of half a kilometre, was being used by certain foreign missions and operators to spy on almost all the government top offices surrounding the presidency, according to Ansar Abbasi’s report.
In December 2009, he reported about an unidentified foreign hand having been involved in making efforts to bug the proceedings of a federal cabinet meeting by installing the latest equipment at a certain distance from the PM’s Secretariat that was detected. A special cabinet meeting was scheduled to be held with Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani in the chair on September 9, 2009, which was delayed for two hours due to non-clearance given by security agencies to the room in which the meeting was scheduled to be held on that day.
Security agencies, the sources said, detected some mysterious waves that resulted in a delay in starting the cabinet meeting by two hours, adding that the meeting started only after the room was cleared security-wise, Ansar Abbasi’s report said.