NSC convened to pore over damning audio leaks

Interior minister says ISI, IB completed initial inquiry, report will be presented before NSC on Wednesday


Rizwan Shehzad   September 26, 2022
NSC meeting being held at the PM Office in Islamabad on April 22. PHOTO: PM OFFICE

ISLAMABAD:

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has summoned the National Security Committee (NSC) meeting on September 28 to discuss matters related to national security, including audio leaks audio leaks allegedly featuring conversation of the premier with high-profile government officials.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah told a private news channel that the PM summoned NSC to discuss the issue, adding that the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Intelligence Bureau (IB) had completed initial inquiry and a report regarding audio leaks would be presented before the NSC on Wednesday.

The interior minister said that the government was taking measures to address the issue of the audio leaks, adding that prima facie the intelligence agencies reached some conclusion but the detailed inquiry would reveal more about the audio recordings.

The minister said, “The leaks could be a result of phone hacking or someone could have installed recording devices. If the recordings are obtained through bugging then it will be a serious matter.”

In response to the criticism from the PTI leadership, Sanaullah said that they were trying to bring a storm in a teacup, advising them to respond to their taps released in the past.

The top military and civilian leadership including the defence minister, interior minister, information minister, finance minister, and other important cabinet members will participate in the NSC meeting scheduled to take place at the PM House on Wednesday.

Also read: 'National security crisis': PTI demands probe into govt audio leaks

The minister said, “The leaks could be a result of phone hacking or someone could have installed recording devices. If the recordings are obtained through bugging then it will be a serious matter.”

In response to the criticism from the PTI leadership, Sanaullah said that they were trying to bring a storm in a tea cup, advising them to respond to their taps released in the past.

The top military and civilian leadership including the defence minister, interior minister, information minister, finance minister and other important cabinet members will participate in the NSC meeting scheduled to take place at the PM House on Wednesday.

The huddle will discuss the flood situation, national security and other matters and the NSC is expected to make important decisions in view of the audio leaks. The participants will also be briefed on the law and order situation of the country in the meeting.

Since the audio recordings have surfaced, the PTI leadership lashed out at the premier and sought action against the PM for allegedly agreeing to facilitate PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz’s son-in-law at her request.

Media reports stated that PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman also said that he would ask PM Shehbaz to take strong action against the perpetrators involved in the audio leaks scandal.

PTI Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhary on Monday demanded an impartial and thorough investigation into the audio leaks from the PM House allegedly containing conversations between the PM and the cabinet members, which, he said, was a major security lapse.

Addressing a news conference, the PTI leader said that it was a very serious issue and it must be investigated properly. However, he said, it was surprising that neither the PM House issued a statement nor announced investigation into the matter hitherto.

He lashed out at the government for being unable to manage its affairs efficiently, demanding that action should be taken against PM Shehbaz for providing undue facilitation to procure machinery from India for Maryam’s son-in-law.

Fawad quoted a TV channel that the government was in talks with the hackers to purchase the data that was put on the dark web, demanding $345,000, who claimed to have more explosive audios, which were yet to be released. In a talk show, Sanaullah refuted such claims, saying no one should take PTI’s claims seriously.

In the news conference, Fawad said, “The hackers have claimed that they even have conversations of Pakistan security agencies pertaining to the security related issues.”

He said that the breach suggested weak cybersecurity in the PM Office and that anything could be leaked as no conversation was safe there, adding that the 140-hour-long audio leaks of the PM House was available on internet since August 20, but no institution was aware of it.

The former PTI information minister said that the IB was the relevant agency that had to monitor the affairs of the PM House but despite spending billions of rupees, the agency remained completely unaware in this regard.

He said that a Twitter account was then created through which a few minutes of the conversation were leaked to the general public but unfortunately, even after several hours, the government failed to react to the development. “The PTI has spent a lot of money to provide the latest equipment to agencies,” he said.

Fawad termed Sanaullah and Marriyum Aurangzeb’s statements on the matter funny, who, he said, indirectly confirmed the conversation. He said that the National Assembly speaker must summon the PM and other members of the NA before the privilege committee to answer about it because it showed that Pakistan was faced with a serious national security crisis.

For a long time, successive governments have been embroiled in audio and video leak scandals but there has never been a comprehensive inquiry into any such incident. On every occasion, the truth lays somewhere between the allegations and denials.

Dar lands back with PM

Meanwhile, PM Shehbaz landed back in Pakistan along with the would-be finance minister Ishaq Dar on Monday evening. In an interaction with media, Dar said that he was glad to have come back to his home country. Dar said, “I will give my best to take Pakistan out of the economic turmoil it is in currently.”

Dar said that party supremo Nawaz Sharif and PM Shehbaz had asked him to take charge as the country’s finance minister, saying he was hopeful that the country would go in the positive direction and the PML-N would be able to take the country out of the economic mess just the way he did it in 1998-99 and 2013-14.

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