By Ansar Abbasi
ISLAMABAD: Phone bugging of politicians, journalists, government officials and even rulers by secret agencies continues to be their favourite hobby though they should be focusing their attention on security issues and mounting incidents of terrorism.
Key officials in the government, holding important positions, have been shocked to learn that not only their casual talk with their friends and acquaintances is tapped but the transcripts of such conversations are provided to the concerned officials about whom the negative casual remarks are passed.
This is “old habits die hard” like situation for the intelligence agencies which have been repeatedly warned by no less than the Supreme Court of Pakistan to desist from this illegal practice. Instead of focusing their energies and resources on the issues of national security, the intelligence agencies have now started secretly sharing the controversial transcripts to embarrass others besides creating rifts among colleagues.
Although publicly the agencies deny this but there is no guarantee that the judges are spared from this illegal tapping business.
Informed sources said that such a dirty work of the intelligence agencies was recently exposed when some key officials at the Centre and in Punjab exchanged their notes and frankly discussed how their casual remarks on phones were tapped and provided to the other party to create misunderstandings.
The two sides, which had gone through this embarrassment, have though not allowed the agencies to get their relations sour, despite their great influence and connections they are not aware which of the leading intelligence agency did this “remarkable” job.
Federal Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, a source said, has also recently become the victim of illegal work of the agencies. The source said that Dar was wrongly attributed.These sources said that phones of some “earmarked” journalists are also being tapped while the politicians are also not spared. It is said that the activities of the politicians are also being monitored.
In 2007, the Supreme Court had ordered a sweep of their homes and courtrooms for spying devices after the then government had dared to present before the court a dossier containing surveillance photos of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry’s home and transcripts of apparently bugged conversations.
The dossier was marked as “secret”.The SC had reprimanded the government for producing “vexatious and scandalous” material, suspended the legal licence of one of the government’s lawyers, and banned intelligence agents from future hearings of the superior courts. The court had also ordered the Intelligence Bureau to ensure all bugging or other surveillance devices were removed from the homes and offices of Supreme Court judges within one week. The SC had also fined the government Rs100,000 for this illegal work of the agencies.
Despite the SC’s 2007 reprimand of the then government and the intelligence agencies, the agencies have been grossly involved in the phone tapping of politicians, journalists, bureaucrats and even judges during the last five years.
The intelligence agencies instead of safeguarding the security interests of the country have been reporting to some influential business tycoons about what media persons or other people used to talk about the business scandals of the influential businessmen.
The phone tapping was such an obvious reality that even the PPP ministers and MPs while using their mobile phones used to tell the other side including media men that the then interior minister Rehman Malik was also listening to what they were discussing.
That situation, it is said, has not changed much even today as the agencies have now the guts to provide the transcripts of what the key officials surrounding the top rulers discuss casually with their friends and acquaintances.