• Framework on cyber security to be prepared, security of govt comms to be reviewed
• Bajwa asks troops to go after terrorists attacking forces

ISLAMABAD: The National Security Committee (NSC) on Wednesday constituted a body to investigate the leaks of conversations in the Prime Minister House, besides agreeing on putting in place a ‘legal framework’ pertaining to cyber security.

Earlier in the day, Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa, while presiding over the corps commanders conference, directed the troops to go after terrorists as they have stepped up attacks, particularly against security forces.

The NSC meeting was convened after a series of audio recordings of conversations featuring Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, key leaders of the ruling PML-N and senior officials surfaced on social media.

The embarrassing leaks particularly raised concerns about the security arrangements at the PM House, which is otherwise considered a highly secure place.

“The [NSC] meeting approved the formation of a high-powered committee to investigate the issue of audio leaks,” the PM Office said after the high-level session that was attended by key ministers, services chiefs and top spy agencies officials.

The committee will be led by Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah.

The media statement issued after the NSC meeting did not say anything about the fate of an ongoing investigation into the matter, which involves intelligence agencies, as to whether that would be taken over by the new body or would continue in parallel.

The investigation was started soon after the audio leaks appeared on social media a few days back.

Several staffers of PM House have been grilled.

The NSC was briefed about the probe that was already taking place, according to the PM Office.

Senior officials of intelligence agencies gave presentations on the security arrangements of PM House and other sensitive installations, particularly about cyber security measures that were being observed.

“Certain aspects related to the security of the Prime Minister’s House were pointed out and fool-proof arrangements were made to remedy them,” the media statement said, without elaborating those lacunae.

“The meeting was informed that emergency measures are being taken to ensure the security of the Prime Minister House and other important places, buildings and ministries in order to avoid any such situation in the future,” it added.

Ministry of Law and Justice was asked to prepare a ‘Legal Framework’ related to cyber security.

The participants further decided to undertake a review of the security of government communications, involving the changing security environment for ensuring that that could not be breached.

Surge in attacks discussed

Earlier, Gen Bajwa, at the corps commanders conference, directed the troops to go after terrorists as they have increased attacks, particularly on security forces.

“Formations must leave no stone unturned to take action against terrorists in coordination with all LEAs [law enforcement agencies],” Gen Bajwa was quoted by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) as having told the commanders at the monthly meeting.

The participants of the conference were briefed on the external and internal security situation.

“The forum undertook a comprehensive review of security environment with special focus on situation along the borders, internal security and other professional matters of the Army,” the military’s media affairs wing said.

Resurgence of terrorism has been the major topic at the corps commanders’ meetings for the second month in a row because of growing incidents of violence involving the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

At the last meeting, the military’s top brass had hinted at a tougher approach towards TTP because of growing public resentment against return of militants from Afghanistan, who had then started making their presence felt.

The TTP militants had returned in July/August while peace talks between the terrorist outfit and the Army were taking place in Afghanistan. The dialogue has almost stalled now.

There has been a sharp increase in the number of violent incidents this month. In most cases, law enforcement personnel and troops have been targeted. Besides TTP, the militant Islamic State group has claimed a couple of attacks and one of the strikes was reportedly jointly carried out by the TTP and IS.

According to the ISPR, the commanders pledged “zero tolerance for resurgent terrorism”.

Gen Bajwa, meanwhile, directed the formations to remain vigilant against threat.

Relief work praised

The commanders also discussed the flood situation and ongoing relief efforts being undertaken by army formations across the country.

“[The] forum expressed solidarity with flood victims who are braving great difficulties and resolved to extend maximum assistance for their relief and rehabilitation,” the ISPR said.

“[The] COAS also appreciated Army Engineers / FWO for restoring accessibility of critical routes and communication infrastructure on emergency basis,” it said, adding that military formations were directed to focus on relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction and help restore routine life in flood-affected areas.

Published in Dawn, September 29th, 2022



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