• Mobile phone data, laptops of employees being monitored
• No staffers allowed to take mobile phones inside
• Minister says orders given to make security measures effective
ISLAMABAD: A high-powered committee constituted to probe into the leak of informal conversations from the Prime Minister House is said to have combed and debugged the entire premises, which was also confirmed by a federal minister during a press conference on Thursday.
“They have conducted thorough inspection of the building,” a source told Dawn. The team was also monitoring mobile phone data and laptops of employees and officers of the PM House and Office.
Following a series of audio leaks over the last week, also featuring Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz and former PM Imran Khan, a new standard operating procedure (SOP) has been implemented at the PM House under which no staff and officer was allowed to take their mobile phone inside the building. “The phones are collected at the entrance and returned after office hours,” the source added.
PM Sharif had on Tuesday at a press conference called the controversial audio leaks a serious ‘security lapse’ and said a high-powered inquiry committee would probe into the fiasco.
On the other hand, a new cyber security department is being formed at the PM House to be headed by a director general. Waiters and low-ranked staff there were under a strict watch and their access to Prime Minister Sharif has been restricted.
Law minister’s presser
Meanwhile, Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar said in a press conference on Thursday that state institutions had conducted an exercise to secure the PMO’s security, and confirmed some SOP of the PM House’s security had been changed. He also said legislation was the need of the hour in the context of modern technology, especially cyber security.
“Many sensitive matters are discussed in important places where the environment should be such that everyone is 100 per cent satisfied with making national decisions in a secure environment,” he commented.
The minister further said talks regarding a “cleansing process” were under way, and the government was mulling over the steps to take in the future. Basic SOP was already in place for sensitive buildings and further orders have been given to make the security measures effective and prevent such breaches in the future, he added.
“Pakistan is a responsible state and we have to move forward keeping a balance between state laws and fundamental human rights,” he commented, adding the meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC) held on Wednesday reviewed the issue of audio leaks in detail, and determined decisions and priorities regarding the future.
“The government has formed a special committee headed by the interior minister. The committee will review these audio leaks and secret recordings,” he said, adding the whole world was facing a cyber security challenge as there were various ways of online attacks.
Mr Tarar rejected Imran Khan’s narrative of a foreign conspiracy behind his ouster from power in April, claiming one of the leaked audio conversations had brought facts about the diplomatic cipher at the centre of the controversy on record.
Referring to the audio leak featuring Mr Khan, he said the then principal secretary Azam Khan should have realised he was a state servant and not advanced a political party’s agenda. It would have been much better if the principal secretary had made Imran understand this was not an issue that could be played with and instead told the Foreign Office to take appropriate action since it was its domain, he added.
Tarar said when a lawmaker takes oath as a member of parliament or prime minister, they pledge not to give priority to personal interests over national interest. But Imran Khan’s conspiracy narrative had exposed that the former PM preferred personal interest.
“We should take decisions in the interest of the state. Mr Khan played a dangerous game against the country’s interest,” the law minister said, adding Pakistan had a decades-long history of diplomatic relations with the US.
He said the present government had not yet withdrawn the letter sent by the former prime minister to the Supreme Court to form a judicial commission to investigate the US cipher, adding the Supreme Court considered it inappropriate to take action after its decision.
Earlier on Wednesday, the NSC had constituted a high-powered committee to probe into the leak of informal conversations from the PM House and take precautionary measures to prevent such a national security breach from top government offices in the future.
The team, headed by Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, comprised officials from the Inter-Services Intelligence and Intelligence Bureau.
Published in Dawn, September 30th, 2022