Pakistan to raise hacking by India of Imran’s phone

Published July 20, 2021
In the file photo, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad briefs the media about a cabinet meeting during a press conference at PID Media Centre. — APP/File
In the file photo, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad briefs the media about a cabinet meeting during a press conference at PID Media Centre. — APP/File

• Minister says govt waiting for details
• Delhi using Israeli firm’s spyware for surveillance

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Monday decided to raise the issue of hacking of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s telephone calls by India with relevant forums.

“We are waiting for details of the hacking,” Information Minis­ter Fawad Chaudhry told Dawn.

Once details are received the issue will be raised at appropriate forums, the minister said when asked whether the government will take up the matter with India.

Earlier in a tweet, the minister expressed concern over reports that the Indian government used Israeli software to spy on journalists and political opponents.

“Extremely concerned on news reports emerging from @guardiannews that Indian government used Israeli software to spy on journalists, political opponents and politicians. Unethical policies of #ModiGovt have dangerously polarised India and the region… More details are emerging,” Mr Chaudhry tweeted.

International media reports said India was among a number of countries using an Israeli company’s spyware in attempted and successful hacks of smart phones belonging to journalists, government officials and human rights activists around the world.

At least one number once used by Prime Minister Imran Khan was on India’s list, an investigation by 17 media organisations published on Sunday revealed.

The extent of the spyware — Pegasus — use was reported by The Washington Post, the Guardian, Le Monde and other news outlets which collaborated on an investigation into the data leak.

According to The Post, more than 1,000 phone numbers in India appeared on the surveillance list while hundreds were from Pakistan, including the one PM Khan once used. However, The Post did not specify whether the surveillance attempt on Mr Khan’s number was successful.

Indian investigative news website The Wire reported that 300 mobile phone numbers used in India, including those of government ministers, opposition politicians, journalists, scientists and rights activists, were on the list.

The numbers included those of more than 40 Indian journalists from major publications such as the Hindustan Times, The Hindu and the Indian Express, as well as two founding editors of The Wire, it said.

Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari also addressed the development and said “part two” of the report on how the Indian government had spied on its own ministers was expected today.

The Indian government denied in 2019 that it had used the malware to spy on its citizens after WhatsApp filed a lawsuit in the United States against NSO, the Israeli company producing the spyware, accusing it of using the messaging platform to conduct cyber espionage.

Israel’s NSO Group and its Pegasus malware have been in the headlines since at least 2016 when researchers accused it of helping spy on a dissident in the United Arab Emirates.

Sunday’s revelations raise privacy and rights concerns and reveal the far-reaching extent to which the private Israeli company’s software may be misused by its clients internationally.

The leak was of a list of more than 50,000 smart phone numbers believed to have been identified as people of interest by clients of NSO since 2016, the media outlets said.

PM takes notice

Prime Minister Imran Khan took notice of the complaint of a woman about the alleged rape of her minor disabled daughter and ordered immediate arrest of the culprits.

The mother had lodged a complaint with the Pakistan Citizen Portal under the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit (PMDU) that her daughter was assaulted in Okara, while the officer investigating the incident had demanded bribe from her.

PM Khan stressed the need for a transparent investigation into the matter with a direction to keep the Prime Minister’s Office informed about the inquiry.

On reports of the investigating officer demanding bribe from the woman, the PMDU, on the direction of the prime minister, asked the district police officer Okara to take immediate action.

Imran felicitates Nepali counterpart

Prime Minister Khan on Monday congratulated the new prime minister of Nepal, Sher Bahadur Deuba, on winning the vote of trust in the parliament.

“I congratulate H.E. Sher Bahadur Deuba, Prime Minister of Nepal, on winning the vote of confidence from the House of Representatives,” the prime minister posted on his Twitter account.

Mr Khan expressed his desire to continue working with Nepal in areas of common interest.

“Pakistan looks forward to further deepening its cordial ties with Nepal & would continue to work closely with Nepal on issues of common interest,” he tweeted.

Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba on Sunday comfortably won a vote of confidence in the House of Representatives, ensuring continuity of the twice dissolved lower house of parliament for the remaining duration.

Deuba, the 75-year-old chief of the Nepali Congress, was appointed the prime minister as per the Article 76(5) of the Constitution on July 12 following Supreme Court’s intervention. He secured 165 votes in the 275-member house.

Published in Dawn, July 20th, 2021

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