'Likely that Nawaz obtained Imran’s phone data through Israeli spyware with Modi’s help,' claims Farrukh Habib
State Minister for Information and Broadcasting Farrukh Habib on Tuesday raised suspicions regarding former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's role in clandestinely accessing the personal data of his political opponents, saying “it is likely that Sharif obtained information [about Imran Khan] through Israeli spyware with the help of [Indian prime minister] Narendra Modi”.
The startling revelations regarding the phone tapping of world leaders and other individuals through Israeli spyware 'Pegasus' were unearthed in a investigative report compiled by at least 17 media organisations, which were made public earlier on Sunday.
According to the Washington Post, India was among a number of countries using the Israeli company's spyware in attempted and successful hacks of smartphones 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 the India list.
Addressing a press conference in Faisalabad today, State Minister Farrukh Habib said Imran had been a prominent opposition figure [before the 2018 general elections] and was running aggressive campaigns against Nawaz Sharif for his involvement in the “Panama leaks” case and pre-poll rigging attempts, hence the PML-N leader must have employed his connections with India to spy on Imran and breach his privacy through the Israeli software.
He said a country which was an enemy of Pakistan and people of Kashmir, and “imagine the then PM of Pakistan was seeking help from that country to tap phones of his opponent(s)”.
“When Modi was invading privacy of his opponents, and getting access to their personal data… it is certain that Nawaz Sharif also obtained phone data of Imran Khan with assistance of Modi,” he said, adding more details were still unfolding on the matter.
The state minister also expressed surprise at surveillance being carried out on Khan who was not the prime minister at that time, saying Nawaz Sharif’s alleged involvement was now becoming clear and we will seek answers from them.
He alleged that it was the history of the PML-N supremo to get phones of his opponents tapped, underlining “he has done the same with judges, politicians, chiefs of intelligence agencies and his political opponents in the past.”
The WhatsApp data of your opponents was somewhat difficult to access, but Nawaz Sharif sought help from Modi to glean that information as well, the minister alleged.
Habib said Modi had also made a stop over in Pakistan at a wedding function in Nawaz Sharif’s family, while the latter had also attended the inauguration ceremony of the Indian PM. “These links indicate strong connection between them,” the minister added.
Lashing out at PML-N vice-president Maryam Nawaz, the minister said Sharif’s daughter was currently leading a campaign in Kashmir, but she had not once mentioned Modi or RSS and their oppression of the people of occupied-Kashmir.
He said the PML-N should now clear Nawaz Sharif’s connection with the Pegasus spyware and how he used it for his own mileage.
Reacting to the phone-tapping revelations a day ago, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry had said he was "extremely concerned" by the reports. "Unethical policies of Modi government have dangerously polarised India and the region," he had tweeted.
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.