The head of the judicial commission investigating the ‘Memogate’ controversy has expressed concern over the government’s decision to sack three forensics experts of the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) National Response Centre for Cyber Crimes a few days ago.
Speaking at Monday’s commission hearing, Balochistan High Court Chief Justice Qazi Faiz Isa questioned how the FIA could operate its forensics wing without the experts. Sources in the NR3C, as the Centre is known, said it had become “dysfunctional” since the sackings.
The termination letters, dated January 6, were issued by the project director of the NR3C with the Interior Ministry’s approval.
Shahid Nadeem Baloch, the project director, confirmed that the three experts as well as an office superintendent had been sacked recently. He said the sackings had no connection with Memogate, but did not say why their contracts were terminated. They had not been served show cause notices.
The termination letters were issued to Sarafraz Chaudhry, the NR3C regional coordinator posted at FIA Headquarters in Islamabad; Abdul Ghaffar, a forensics expert recently transferred from Lahore to Karachi; Muhammad Irfan Qureshi, a forensics expert recently transferred from Islamabad to Lahore; and Saif, an office superintendent in Islamabad.
The forensics experts have assisted in more than 50 investigations, including high-profile cases such as the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, attacks on Gen (retired) Pervez Musharraf, the abduction of Shahbaz Taseer, the Mumbai attacks, and several financial fraud and cybercrime cases, according to FIA records.
One of the three served as the FIA’s focal person for liaison with intelligence agencies to obtain call data records and SMS data from more than 10,000 mobile phone numbers in connection with investigations over the last three years, said FIA sources.
One expert deleted data from the computers of President Asif Zardari’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar and PPP leader Babar Awan, after they complained that someone had hacked into their email accounts and was sending messages from their accounts concerning the controversial memo, before the Supreme Court took up the case.
The sources said that the government did not like the FIA experts as it believed them to be close to Zafar Qureshi, the FIA official who investigated Moonis Elahi in the National Insurance Company Limited scam, and Tariq Khosa, the previous director general of the FIA who was initially chosen to head the commission by the Supreme Court.
They said that shortly after the announcement of Khosa’s appointment, an intelligence agency intercepted a call made by the then FIA director general to one of the forensics experts. “The call showed to the government that Khosa had close ties to the official,” said the sources.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 10th, 2012.