• Mobile phone data, employee laptops monitored
• No staff member is allowed to take mobile phones inside
• Minister says orders have been given to make security measures effective
ISLAMABAD: A high-level committee formed to investigate the leak of casual conversations from the Prime Minister’s House is said to have combed through and debugged the entire premises, which was also confirmed by a federal minister at a conference press Thursday.
“They conducted a thorough inspection of the building,” a source said. Dawn. The team was also monitoring mobile phone and laptop data of PM House and Office employees and officers.
Following a series of audio leaks over the past week, also featuring Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz and former Prime Minister Imran Khan, a new standard operating procedure ( SOP) was implemented at the PM House under which no staff and officer was allowed to take their mobile phone inside the building. “Phones are collected at the entrance and returned after office hours,” the source added.
At a press conference, Prime Minister Sharif on Tuesday called the controversial audio leaks a serious “security breach” and said a high-level commission of inquiry would investigate the fiasco.
On the other hand, a new cybersecurity department is being formed at PM House which will be headed by a general manager. Waiters and junior staff were under strict surveillance and their access to Prime Minister Sharif was restricted.
Presser of the Minister of Justice
Meanwhile, Justice Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar told a press conference on Thursday that state institutions had conducted an exercise to secure the Prime Minister’s Office, and confirmed that some Prime Minister’s Home Security SOPs had been changed. He also said legislation was the need of the hour in the context of modern technology, especially cybersecurity.
“Many sensitive issues are discussed in important places where the environment should be such that everyone is 100% happy to make national decisions in a secure environment,” he commented.
The minister further said that talks regarding a “cleansing process” were underway and the government was considering what steps to take in the future. Basic SOPs were already in place for sensitive buildings and new instructions were issued to make security measures effective and prevent such breaches in the future, he added.
“Pakistan is a responsible state and we must move forward maintaining a balance between the laws of the state and basic human rights,” he said, adding that the meeting of the Committee of National Security Council (NSC) meeting on Wednesday discussed the issue of audio leaks in detail, and determined decisions and priorities for the future.
“The government has formed a special commission chaired by the Minister of the Interior. The committee will look into these audio leaks and secret recordings,” he said, adding that the whole world faces a cybersecurity challenge as there are different ways to attack online.
Mr Tarar dismissed Imran Khan’s account of a foreign plot behind his April ousting, saying one of the leaked audio conversations revealed facts about the diplomatic cipher at the center of the controversy.
Referring to the leaked audio featuring Mr Khan, he said then-Principal Secretary Azam Khan should have realized he was a civil servant and did not advance the agenda of a political party. It would have been much better if the Principal Secretary had made it clear to Imran that this was not a problem to be played with and instead told the Foreign Ministry to take appropriate action since this was his domain, he said. he added.
Tarar said that when a lawmaker is sworn in as an MP or prime minister, he pledges not to prioritize his personal interests over the national interest. But Imran Khan’s conspiracy account had revealed that the former prime minister favored self-interest.
“We have to make decisions in the interest of the state. Mr. Khan has played a dangerous game against the interests of the country,” the justice minister said, adding that Pakistan has a long history of diplomatic relations with the United States.
He said the current 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 encryption, adding that the Supreme Court had deemed it inappropriate to take measures after its decision.
Earlier on Wednesday, the NSC had set up a high-level committee to investigate the leak of informal conversations from the Prime Minister’s House and take precautionary measures to prevent such an attack on the national security of key government offices in the coming.
The team, led by Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, was made up of officials from the Intelligence Bureau and Interagency Intelligence.
Posted in Dawn, September 30, 2022
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