Harassment by SMS

Published: December 19, 2010
SHARES
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ayesha.siddiqa@tribune.com.pk

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I in his column “Fabricated nonsense” (December 14), Ejaz Haider spoke about the intelligence of intelligence agencies. This was in reference to WikiLeaks and the argument was that the agencies might not be so dumb as to have taken part in the fake leaks. Why would they make such obvious mistakes? But then the simplest plot can be the most complex. Since the afternoon of December 12, I have been receiving phone calls from concerned friends and family members. The subject of concern: a baseless and vicious SMS being circulated against me. It seems like the work of someone who would have the power to access my phone call history and more. In typical agency style, the Ufone number, from which the message was sent, does not respond if you try to call back. I would personally like to glean all the information that the accuser seems to have against me.

I would like to confess to Mr Haider that I thought the agencies could not be that stupid and that the fake WikiLeaks must have been the work of some intoxicated or angry Lone Ranger spook. Logically, the agencies should have the intelligence not to engage in such a vilification campaign at a time when they have their back to the wall due to the WikiLeaks revelations. Such an understanding of logic means that the agency walas should not have fired shots outside renowned columnist Kamran Shafi’s house in the middle of the night. In Mr Shafi’s case — the incident happened a few months ago — the explanation given by the chief spook was: why should we try harassing you when you are critical of us? A terribly sweet statement!

Although I have no access to the head of the ISI or the MI, I am quite sure they will plead innocent if I get a chance to ask them to solve the mystery. Thus far, Interior Minister Rehman Malik, whom I personally informed of the incident, has not bothered to come to my rescue. It is definitely not the work of some random prankster because not just anyone would have access to my phone history or want to run a campaign against me in my own city of Bahawalpur. Perhaps, it is one of the militant outfits headquartered in Bahawalpur. An old friend of my mother’s, who also received this SMS, said that it made her feel vulnerable, as if someone was hearing and watching everything. I am quite sure the purpose behind this is to stop my free access to my own people. But referring to the question of who it could be, I am not sure if it is the militants alone. They can publish silly stories in their own journals, which Jaish-e-Mohammad did against me last year. But to embark on the currently mentioned activity, they had to be able to access my call log and numerous other lists. This means help from those who have the power to do this.

I can happily live with the explanation that this could be the work of rogue elements inside the agencies. After all, top spooks have said to western diplomats that rogue elements were involved in the case of Mumbai. We never seem to run out of these elements. The problem with such elements is that their presence casts serious doubts on the efficiency of intelligence agencies who are supposedly professional. It’s a question worth asking that how do rogue elements continue to thrive in our intelligence agencies, especially after former army chief Pervez Musharraf claimed to have cleaned it up of such creatures. Perhaps, greater but selective transparency will help solve the mystery. This is not about demeaning the military, but a cry for its institutional integrity. Militaries that are infested with rogue elements tend to become weak and ineffective.

One would hope that there is some institution left in this country that can stand up for the protection of its citizens. Perhaps, the highest court would like to take suo motu notice of this incident. This is not just about personal protection but about saving our national institutions from rogue elements and black sheep.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 19th, 2010.

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Reader Comments (25)

  • zubair torwali
    Dec 19, 2010 - 1:17AM

    Very shocked hearing that you, after Kamran Shafi, are harassed by the invisible hands. May Allah keep you safe and sound.Recommend

  • Iqbal Khan
    Dec 19, 2010 - 1:17AM

    I do hope that our ISI and MI would stop their smear and dirty campaign against people like you and honorable Mr. Kamran Shafi..The Supreme Court is the last door to seek help Ms. Ayesha !!!!Recommend

  • faraz
    Dec 19, 2010 - 1:51AM

    Actually, the middle and low-level intelligence personnel seriously believe that Pakistan is at the centre of the universe and the entire world fears its professionalism; such delusions of grandeur also exist among the army officers. Recommend

  • Arifq
    Dec 19, 2010 - 2:33AM

    Dear Writer,
    Authoritarian states bordering on fascism are intrinsically insecure and demand total secrecy. I have great respect for people l ike yourself and pray for your safety. Recommend

  • Tick Tock Khan
    Dec 19, 2010 - 2:38AM

    Why should the highest court do this?

    You have money? Hire a lawyer and file a case.Recommend

  • Raqib Ali
    Dec 19, 2010 - 3:19AM

    Very sad indeed. Why harass someone? When someone’s days are numbered, they start trying such things. I think that the ‘rogue elements’ are in great danger themselves. Wait and see. Recommend

  • Dec 19, 2010 - 4:33AM

    I am very sorry to hear about what happened Ms Siddiqa. The constant references to rogue elements who just happen to carry out the Establishment’s agenda reminds me of Henry II. The King angry at the priest Thomas Becket, in the presence of his knights says rhetorically, “Who shall rid me of this meddlesome priest?” The King ends up doing penance for his knights “independent” murder of Thomas Becket, but Becket, alas, is now conveniently dead.

    I hope our intelligence services will have the sense to tightly asset control on all their rogue knights, and put dreams of political manipulation to sleep.Recommend

  • Abdullah
    Dec 19, 2010 - 4:38AM

    your courage and honest opinion is indeed very inspiring for young Pakistani. hope the agencies will bring to culprits to justiceRecommend

  • Haris Chaudhry
    Dec 19, 2010 - 5:55AM

    Ha.. the spooks seem to have a lot of free time on their hands.
    From plotting Jihads within and outside the boundaries of this citadel of islam and cobbling together enough funds to buy the loyalties of politicians, picking up and doing the ‘magic vanishing” act on the citizens of their own country in all provinces whilst closing their eyes and burrying their heads in the sand when it comes to containing terrorists outfits within this nation and now their favourite hobby seems to be harrassing journalists across the country.Recommend

  • Talat
    Dec 19, 2010 - 9:41AM

    Just as Ministers are to be held resposible for the corruption of the bureaucrates in their departments. the high officials of military ntelligence are to be blamed for the alleged misdeeds of the “rougue elemnts”. Recommend

  • Maulana Diesel
    Dec 19, 2010 - 9:41AM

    I was under the impression that insubordination in the armed forces is the worst offense resulting in at least court martial if not the firing squad. I would think these “rogue elements” can at least be charged with insubordination. I really think these “rogue elements” are just an excuse when they get caught with their pants down.Recommend

  • karim
    Dec 19, 2010 - 9:44AM

    it is impossible to clean up the settled nature of lie mongering in Pakistan…..from top to bottom left to right every thing smell conspiracy to defeat one another,,,,,……the function of circulating notorious msgs is not an easy task,,,,and the poverty driven people knows only pick up a piece of bread anyhow……Recommend

  • Karim Khan
    Dec 19, 2010 - 12:00PM

    Ayesha, this harrasment is extremely condemnable! It will be very disappointng if the court doesn’t take any sou motu notice of it. But it must, and if it doesn’t, we need to look at the judiciary more critically as well. After all, the people empowered it to independence and if it ignores the pulic, it is not independent.Recommend

  • Moazzam Salim
    Dec 19, 2010 - 12:10PM

    Unfortunately, Ms. Ayesha is not the first one to be affected by the actions of the so called Intelligence Agencies and she is not going to be the last. For decades now these Agencies have successfully created a pseudo government in Pakistan. It is a commonly knownn fact that every government department has a key member on the payroll of these Agencies. They have the access to all the key databases. A direct consequence for the general public is their close associations with the organized crime syndicates. But all of this is nothing compared to their newly found boldness. One can recall the case of missing “terrorists” from the custody of Police where these Agencies denied any wrong doing and then very conveniently changed their stance to “yes we have them but we arrested them from the troubled areas of Waziristan”. The confidence with which these Agency Walas work makes every law abiding citizen nervous. The only solution to curtail this mis-use of authority is to bring these Agencies under the purview of law. However, this requires a strong political will to bring about the necessary changes to the Constitution of Pakistan, a willl that is significantly missing from the future plans of all the political parties. Recommend

  • Karim Mengal
    Dec 19, 2010 - 2:10PM

    Ms. Siddiqa why are you discussing your personal problems in the newspaper ? Abusive calls, fake sms, privacy etc etc Go complain to PTA. Interestingly in your story you have connected Army professionalism with your fake sms case. Without any evidence you are blaming agencies, It is possible any of your close relative or friend circulated those sms just for fun. Instead of blaming ISI-MI-IB go sue Ufone for your privacy. Recommend

  • aamir hussain
    Dec 19, 2010 - 2:11PM

    i only like to comment on access of personal information like telephone calls and SMS..
    now this facility is also present with our police,and ofcourse with intellegence agencies, but we must specify the adencies there are number of other agencies, like FIA,CID etc.but we have to comment somehow on ISI and MI, b/c they represent our military .shame on us.
    and for your information in market there is software available , from where u can hear each and every call of any user, without his consent,you just have to dial one number from that SIM u want to track,so please don’t try to get fame out of this..Recommend

  • ehabs
    Dec 19, 2010 - 3:07PM

    @ Aamir and Karim: You guys aren’t fooling anyone! Two messages posted so close to each other and both saying exactly the same thing! Ha!

    Now, to my point: Ms. Siddiqa is a national treasure. She unearthed the black (read: military) economy of Pakistan when no writer was willing to risk his or her life to do so. But since the Army calls all the shots here, she’s harassed rather than awarded. Some nation we live in. Recommend

  • Afridi
    Dec 19, 2010 - 4:23PM

    As is said its not a matter related to a person, it is truly against the interest of our nation as whole, if our competency is relegated to the fact as an institution that we only extort and suppress individuals, what else can show our innate weakness better than this example that one of our dear writer and educator is under duress to give her fundamental and moral duty of disseminating what ever knowledge she has.
    We need not to wait for a Massiha, if we don’t back this person today it can happen to us tomorrow, from the hands of those incompetent people whole are not able to see behind a few thousands of monthly remuneration. Recommend

  • Sheraz Ahmed
    Dec 19, 2010 - 5:42PM

    The SMS campaign Dr Siddiqa has written about is highly deplorable and must be condemned. However, having read Mr Haider’s column, I am surprised that Dr Siddiqa would say that Haider’s “argument was that the agencies might not be so dumb as to have taken part in the fake leaks”. His argument was that the agencies’ seemingly stupid attempt needs to be seen in relation to who they were targeting and he argued that the audience of the fake WikiLeaks was not the discerning but the gullible who are already predisposed to believe in such fabricated nonsense. To that extent, the attempt may not have been entirely stupid.Recommend

  • x-man
    Dec 19, 2010 - 8:16PM

    I didn’t find this new nor surprising , this is common practice and is well known to most of the people in Pakistan ……. if famous journalists like yourselves are harassed imagine what a common man (who decides to speak up against such practices goes through!!?) i admire your courage Aisha “that you are putting up some brave work in journalism .May Allah keep you , Kamran shafi and alike journalist safe from our own agencies. Lastly if supreme court could have taken any action look in the past our history is full of major incidences , they are either helpless or Not botheredRecommend

  • Talha
    Dec 20, 2010 - 1:11AM

    I am scared.

    I didn’t do anything.Recommend

  • KK
    Dec 20, 2010 - 9:09AM

    Why are you so obsessed with what Ejaz Haider?Recommend

  • Talha
    Dec 20, 2010 - 3:10PM

    I would also like to add that I fully support all state and non state actors including rogue elements to the fullest extent.Recommend

  • Pakistani57
    Dec 20, 2010 - 10:40PM

    If it was me I would feel honoured to be given such spot light by some of Army’s brightest minds … lolRecommend

  • Waqqas Iftikhar
    Dec 21, 2010 - 1:21PM

    @ Pakistani57…..that’s not saying much though….:p

    unfortunate for ms. siddiqa loved her book military inc and spoke to her a couple of times…she definitely knows what she is talking about..Recommend

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