NSC approves constitution of high-level committee to probe PMO audio leaks

Published September 28, 2022
<p>National Security Committee meeting.— File photo/PM House</p>

National Security Committee meeting.— File photo/PM House

The National Security Committee (NSC) on Wednesday approved the constitution of a high-level committee to probe the recently surfaced audio leaks featuring candid conversations between key figures in the coalition government and instructed the Ministry of Law to prepare a “legal framework” regarding cyber security.

The meeting of the NSC, which is the highest forum for coordination on security issues, was chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. It was attended by ministers for defence, energy, information and broadcasting, interior, finance, human rights, planning, development and special initiatives, chairman joint chiefs of staff committee, services chiefs, national security adviser and senior officers.

According to a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), the high-level committee will be headed by Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah.

During the meeting today, the heads of the intelligence institutions gave a detailed briefing to the participants on the security of the PM’s house and other important places.

“The meeting was told that an investigation is being conducted on the issue of the audios circulating on social media. It was briefed about certain aspects related to the security of the Prime Minister’s House and the fool-proof arrangements taken to remedy them.”

The statement reads that the meeting’s participants were informed that emergency measures were being taken to ensure the security of the Prime Minister’s House and other important places, buildings and ministries in order to “avoid any such situation in the future”.

It said that after consultation, the NSC directed the Law Ministry to prepare a “legal framework” related to cyber security.

Furthermore, the participants agreed to review the security, safety and security of government communications keeping in mind the current changing environment of modern technology and cyberspace to “ensure security and security systems are not breached”.

The development comes after audio recordings of conversations between key government figures — including PM Shehbaz, PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz and some members of the federal cabinet — discussing governance matters privately surfaced over the weekend, prompting concerns over the security of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

On Saturday, a recording of PM Shehbaz surfaced where he could be heard speaking with an unidentified official about the possibility of facilitating the import of Indian machinery for a power project that was a concern of Maryam Nawaz Sharif’s son-in-law, Raheel.

On Sunday, further recordings surfaced, which were shared on social media by several PTI leaders, concerning Finance Minister Miftah Ismail and the resignations of PTI lawmakers from the National Assembly.

One clip purportedly features a conversation between PML-N Vice President Maryam and the premier about Miftah, wherein a voice thought to belong to the former says he “doesn’t know what he is doing” and wishes for the return of PML-N stalwart Ishaq Dar.

A second clip allegedly concerns a conversation between the prime minister, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah and Ayaz Sadiq about the resignations of PTI lawmakers from the National Assembly.

A third clip purportedly features a conversation between Maryam Nawaz and PM Shehbaz regarding the return of former army chief retired Gen Pervez Musharraf.

PM Shehbaz on Tuesday termed the surfacing of audio leaks a “very serious lapse” and announced that a high-level committee would be constituted to probe the matter.

Meanwhile, earlier today, a clip started making rounds on social media featuring a conversation between what is believed to be the former premier, Imran Khan, and his former principal secretary, Azam Khan, about a cypher that the PTI chief has for long presented as evidence of a “foreign conspiracy” to oust him from the top office.

In the audio clip, Imran is heard saying: “We only have to play on this. We don’t have to name [any country]. We only have to play with this, that this date was [decided] before.”

Flood situation

During the meeting today, the NSC also reviewed the flood situation in the country and extended condolences to the families of people who lost their lives during the catastrophy.

“The meeting reviewed in detail the steps taken to provide immediate relief, transfer to safe places, food, medical treatment and essential items to more than 33 million flood victims,” the PMO statement reads.

“The NSC paid tribute to the officers and men who were martyred in the accident of an army aviation helicopter in Lasbela, Balochistan while helping the flood victims and said that the nation salutes its martyrs and their families.”

Moreover, it reiterated the commitment that relief and rehabilitation of the flood victims would remain a top priority on the national agenda.

Separately, Foreign Ministry Secretary Sohail Mehmood briefed the meeting regarding the prime minister’s recent participation in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Council of Heads of State in Uzbekistan and the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

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