Pakistan Spy agencies destroying explosive data?

Spy agencies destroying explosive data
By Ansar Abbasi, The News, March 21, 2008

ISLAMABAD: Critical intelligence data and material, including explosive tape recordings of the top-most government, opposition and media persons, are being destroyed by spy agencies to avoid getting caught after the change of government, a senior spy has revealed.

“It’s time for some of the intelligence agencies to fritter away their dirty work before the incoming masters wash the dirty linen they have collected, in public,” he said. The senior spy, associated with the Intelligence Bureau, told this correspondent in a chance meeting on Wednesday that the IB was busy these days destroying the dirty work.

“In our late sittings, our men do this job to leave no evidence of what the bureau has been doing in the recent years,” the source confided on condition of anonymity. In particular, telephonic tapes of different persons, including judges, lawyers, politicians, bureaucrats, journalists and even many of those who had ruled this country during the last eight years are being destroyed, claimed the official, who is one of the in-house contenders for the slot of the Director-General Intelligence Bureau, which has been recently vacated with the departure of Brigadier (retd) Ejaz Shah.

The spy cautioned that telephonic tapes being destroyed included conversation of families of “earmarked” journalists. After March 9, 2007, some of the journalists were confronted with the narration, which was purely a free and frank discussion on professional matters between journalist colleagues.

However, it was on the basis of the same immoral and unlawful “intelligence” work of the intelligence agencies that some persons belonging to the media were “seen” by some of the rulers as among the so-called “conspirators”, who had fuelled the judicial crisis against General (retd) Musharraf.

Though the names of journalists were never made public, deposed chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and leading lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan were publicly named amongst those who had hatched the so-called conspiracy.

Unofficially, PML-N Quaid Nawaz Sharif was also involved and it was alleged that he had financed the judicial movement. Some of the targeted journalists were conveyed unofficially after the Nov 3 emergency-cum-martial law that they might be booked on charges of “treason”.

Former railways minister Sheikh Rashid, who was one of those saner voices during those days of extreme subjugation of the country’s media, had opposed the move against the working journalists.

According to a source, it was not only the IB but also the ISI that has been extensively involved in the bugging business. The source said that some of the IB officials had secured the copies of some the high-profile tapes, which even included telephonic conversations of President Musharraf, the then prime minister Shaukat Aziz and almost every other player in the then government, including the Chaudhrys.

Some of these tapes are already in “limited circulation”. A source revealed that a former top ruler was also in the habit of taping telephones of his residence and office. Some officials, who have served in the Prime Minister Secretariat in the recent years, are also believed to have in their possession some of these “explosive” tapes.

The Intelligence Bureau (IB) has been condemned in the past more than once for being involved in such dirty works. During the Byzantine period of 1990s, both the then PPP and PML-N governments fully misused the IB for their political gains and it was during the same period when the taping scandal was unearthed for the first time.

It was, however, the consequence of the same dirty work that incumbent Attorney-General Justice (retd) Malik Qayyum and the then serving judge of the Lahore High Court was caught discussing Benazir Bhutto’s case with the accountability chief Saifur Rehman.

The controversy led to the removal of Qayyum, who by the twist of fate is the man today having great say in the appointment of superior judges in the post-Nov 3, 2007 scenario. After March 9, 2007, the 13-member bench of the Supreme Court, which was hearing the presidential reference against Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, had also reprimanded the government for bugging offices and residences of the judges of the superior judiciary.

It was the same court that had directed the IB director-general to clean offices and residences of all the then judges of such bugging devices. Documents produced by the government before the court also included not only the transcript of the purported talk of the chief justice but also the photographs of Justice Iftikhar’s house in complete violation of his right to privacy.

It was on the basis of such soiled work of the intelligence agencies that the court had rejected these documents with abhorrence and penalised the federal government with a fine of Rs 100,000. The government had also tendered an apology to the Supreme Court for the same. However, sources suggest that the intelligence agencies never stopped their “illegal” activities of taping phones of politicians, journalists, judges and lawyers.

Rather such activities had furthered after the Nov 3, 2007. Not only the mobile SIMs of deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry were blocked time and again but the same thing was also done to Aitzaz Ahsan.

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