Shafqat Mehmood, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf central information secretary, received a weird call on his mobile phone a few days ago.
The caller, who identified himself as UNDT, told Mehmood that he had hacked 30 Facebook pages operated by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.
The pages, according to Mehmood, had about a million fans worldwide.
Mehmood said he tried to talk the caller into divulging his whereabouts and name “but the cyber kid was too smart”. He hung up the phone with a warning: that he would continue to hack the party’s pages if it continued to restrict fans from posting questions and comments on the pages.
Mehmood described his first reaction as “shock”. “Then we rushed to confirm what [the caller] said,” the information secretary told The Express Tribune. Among the pages hacked were the official Facebook page of the PTI, We Want Imran Khan to be the Next Prime Minister and Jaag Utho. The hacking meant that for four days party fans could not access the pages. “We managed to restore the pages today (Tuesday) but a lot of data was lost,” said Mehmood.
Mehmood said that the party had reason to believe that the hacker was from Karachi, adding that the pages had been hacked “at the PML-N’s behest”. He said that the party was not surprised because it had a huge fan following, particularly on the web, “We knew such a day would come. You cannot pre-empt such attacks.”
The hacker, however, said he was not affiliated with any party. According to messages he left on the PTI pages he is 21.
He described himself as “a fan of the PTI”. He claimed that he had hacked the pages “in protest” against the administration who had restricted access and censored fans’ comments. A message he wrote in Roman Urdu translates roughly as: Fans were allowed to post on the wall initially but now you have blocked access to the wall... I dread the day you will rule Pakistan. Would it be this easy to ‘hack’ Pakistan?
On the Jaag Utho page the hacker posted a sketch of a devil holding a dagger with his teeth. Party fans noticed that the pages had been hacked but were not impressed. “Yes. I saw the messages and the ‘Site Down’ announcement. But we don’t know the ‘real’ story,” said Nadia Ashfaq, a third-year student at the Kinnaird College. “I think it was politically motivated,” she said.
Mehwish, a post-graduate student at the Punjab University said, “I visited the Jaag Utho page a couple of days ago. It was obvious it had been hacked but it was a lousy job... not really ‘high-tech’.”
Published in The Express Tribune, February 8th, 2012.