ISLAMABAD: The Intelligence Bureau (IB) has conceded in its rejoinder to the allegations levelled by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing the Panama Papers case that the bureau collected intelligence on members of the six-man team for ready reference.
The rejoinder, which was furnished to the Supreme Court in response to the complaints, explained that the IB directorate always gathered intelligence on matters of national importance.
In an application submitted to the Supreme Court, the JIT had blamed a number of government institutions like the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), the law ministry and the IB for creating impediments in the collection of evidence in the Panama Papers leaks probe.
SECP urges inquiry into ‘WhatsApp controversy’
While mentioning the IB, the JIT had dubbed the role of its directorate as highly questionable as it had allegedly hacked the Facebook account of Bilal Rasul — a member of the JIT — which was also used by his wife/family only to retrieve the contents/documents attached by Hussain Nawaz in his complaint submitted to the Supreme Court.
Thus the private social media pages of his Facebook account were accessed by Hussain Nawaz ostensibly through the facilitation of the IB. This allegedly also confirmed blatant misuse of the government machinery to support the Sharif family.
The JIT had alleged that on May 24 at about 7:30pm IB field staff were found loitering near the residence of one of the members of JIT and later visited his residence and questioned the housekeeper, causing fear and insecurity amongst the family members.
But in its rejoinder, parts of which were also mentioned in the reply submitted to the court by the Attorney General’s office on Friday, the IB stated that as a regular practice the bureau collected low-downs (data) of the government personnel and other subjects of interest working on important positions. Such low-downs were maintained for ready reference.
The IB categorically denied allegations of hacking the Facebook account of Mr Rasul or his family, or infringing privacy and causing harassment of any JIT member or his family.
Similarly, the SECP in its rejoinder suggested that only an inquiry into the issue of the mysterious “WhatsApp Call Controversy” made by the registrar of the Supreme Court would reveal facts.
The JIT had alleged that the WhatsApp call controversy was stirred at the behest of the SECP chairman Zafar Hijazi with the intention of dragging into the matter the registrar of the apex court who had no role in it.
The SECP said that in a letter of April 28 sent to the registrar of the court, the chairman had brought on record the matter regarding the mysterious call he had received because his initial impression was that the call had been made by someone in the US.
Subsequently it was revealed that the call had in fact been made by the iPhone app FaceTime.
During a hearing by the three-judge Supreme Court implementation bench, the court had explained that the registrar had made the call on the directions of the court.
Meanwhile, NAB’s director general for operations Irfan Naeem Mangi, who is also a member of the JIT, has requested the bureau’s chairman to withdraw its show-cause notice or keep it pending till the completion of his present attachment with the JIT since he was fully occupied with the current assignment.
Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2017