ISLAMABAD: Intelligence and cyber security experts on Monday called for strict compliance with protocols as a slew of audio recordings of conversations between key government figures, including Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, were leaked online over the weekend.
The leaks involve discussions between Sharif and members of his cabinet, including conversations with ruling party leader Maryam Nawaz over the performance of outgoing finance minister Miftah Ismail, and with an unidentified official about the possibility of facilitating the import of Indian machinery for a power project for Nawaz’s son-in-law.
Opposition leader Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, a close aide to ex-PM Imran Khan, demanded an inquiry into the leak, saying the results should be shared with the public. Information Minister Maryam Aurangzeb said in a statement on Sunday the leaks had not revealed that the government was involved in any “illegal act.”
However, addressing a press conference in Faisalabad on Monday, ruling party leader Talal Chaudhary called the events a “serious issue of national security.”
“The audio leaks issue was taken very seriously because the national security and the sanctity of the prime minister's house are at stake,” he said.
Speaking with Arab News, intelligence and cybersecurity experts called for strict compliance with protocols and procedures.
“These data hacks occurred because advisories, recommendations, and precautions advised by the concerned institutions and departments were not followed in letter and spirit,” cybersecurity expert Tariq Malik told Arab News. “All the top officials have to cooperate with concerned departments to secure all technological devices including smartwatches and strictly follow the protocols and procedures given by the concerned authorities.”
Former additional director general Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Ammar Jafri called the leaks a “serious threat.”
“All should take it beyond politics as it is a matter of the state of Pakistan, not any particular political party,” he told Arab News.
“The telephones of all the senior people related to these offices should be thoroughly checked by the security institutions, to find any viruses or such things. Secondly, all the officials should be strictly prohibited from downloading unnecessary applications, and thirdly the premises should be thoroughly screened and it should be done frequently.”
Bashir Wali Mohmand, a former director general at the Intelligence Bureau (IB), said the data of the prime minister’s office was top secret and taken care of accordingly by concerned departments.
“This leak is not a big thing as it has not indicated any direct threat to the prime minister's life,” he told Arab News.
Pakistan last year called on the United Nations to investigate whether India used Israeli-made Pegasus spyware to spy on public figures including then PM Imran Khan.
The Pakistani leader's phone number was on a list of what an investigation by a group of 17 international media organisations and Amnesty International said were potential surveillance targets for countries that bought the spyware.