ISLAMABAD: The head of Intelligence Bureau (IB) on Monday informed a Senate committee that his organisation was not tapping the telephones of politicians and parliamentarians whereas it had a blanket permission to tap the phones of suspected terrorists and criminals.
Appearing before the Senate standing committee on rules and privileges, headed by retired Col Tahir Hussain Mashhadi of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Director General IB Aftab Sultan said his agency required a prior permission of the prime minister for tapping the telephones of a person, including parliamentarians.
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“I can say categorically that I have not received any directives either from the previous or the present prime minister to tap the telephones of parliamentarians,” he declared, adding no telephones of parliamentarians or journalists were presently being tapped under his command.
Mr Sultan said his agency had put under surveillance the telephones of only suspected terrorists and criminals in the interests of the country, and for that purpose it had the blanket permission.
Except for terror suspects, prime minister’s permission needed to tap anyone’s phone, says Intelligence Bureau’s chief
The civilian spy chief had been summoned by the committee to respond to a privilege motion moved by Salim Mandviwala of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) last year.
The senator had alleged that his mobile telephone was being tapped by some secret agency.
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But the IB chief told the meeting that he had no information about the tapping of Mr Mandviwala’s mobile phone. He also said officials of his agency could not tap the telephone of any individual without his approval or bringing the matter to his knowledge.
After the DG’s remarks, Mr Mandviwala showed the copy of an internal communication of the Bureau carrying a directive to provide complete data of the calls made to and from the personal telephone of Mr Mandviwala, who had also served as the finance minister during the previous PPP government.
Interestingly, the IB chief termed the “internal memo” shown by Mr Mandviwala bogus and fake. However, when the PPP senator asked the official if he could say it with an authority and give it in writing, Mr Sultan sought time to get the authenticity of the letter verified.
Mr Mandviwala also said he had “some more evidence” to prove his claim that his telephone remained under surveillance.
Seeing the controversy, the chairman of the committee directed the IB chief to come up with a report within 10 days about the authenticity of the letter.
Talking to Dawn, Mr Mashhadi said he had also directed the head of the IB to carry out a thorough investigation in case the letter was found to be fake.
He said if the DG termed the letter authentic, he would have to tell the committee as from where did the IB receive the directives for providing details of the telephone calls made to and from Mr Mandviwala’s number.
Moreover, the chairman said in case Mr Mandviwala insisted and presented more evidence, two members of the committee would accompany Mr Mandviwala to the IB office to seek the firsthand information about the matter.
Published in Dawn, January 20th, 2015
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