ISLAMABAD: As it formally begins its work from today (Thursday), a key question before a high-powered body formed to probe the public release of audio clips of conversations that took place in the PM Office would be regarding the source of the leaks.

The inquiry committee is also expected to discuss how bugging is different from cyber leaks.

While a key meeting of the probe committee — to be chaired by Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah — was scheduled for Wednesday, it was moved forward by one day.

Sources in the Ministry of Interior said that while de-bugging exercises were regularly conducted in all sensitive government offices, but there were still chances that some advanced mobile phone based applications were used to record discussions during the reign of Imran Khan, as well as the incumbent Shehbaz Sharif.

Body to have input from intel agencies, technical experts

Minister for IT & Telecom Syed Aminul Haque told reporters on Wednesday that the matter had two implications — political and technical.

“We will discuss the technical aspect in the first meeting, which includes determining whether it was bugging or a cyber security breach,” Mr Haque said.

However, the minister said details would become clearer after technical experts from the security establishment give their input over the issue.

Notified by the Cabinet Division on September 30, the committee has been given a deadline of seven days to oversee and review the investigation of the cyber security breach at PM Office, review existing cyber security protocols and suggest immediate measures to develop foolproof security systems.

Apart from five ministers, the committee includes the heads of Inter-Services Intelligence, Intelligence Bureau, technical experts from the Pakistan Tele­commun­ication Authority, Federal Investigation Agency and the secretary of the National Telecommu­nication and Information Technology Security Board (NTISB).

The NTISB exists within the Cabinet Division and its functions include formulating and issuing policy to ensure IT security in the armed forces and all civil departments, as well as periodical reviews of national security-linked IT services in the country.

Observers feel that in the presence of the NTISB, the formation of a special committee was unnecessary.

Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman from the PPP and Communications Minister Asad Mehmood of JUI-F are also part of the body, ostensibly as representatives of coalition partners, since their ministries have nothing to do with the leaks.

Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2022

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