—PM Khan, senior officials avoid using cellphones to avoid breach of sensitive communication
ISLAMABAD: Following a threat of breach of official communication, Prime Minister Imran Khan and senior officials working in the Prime Minister’s Secretariat have started using landline phones and other gadgets of communication, besides personal interaction, to avoid a breach of sensitive communication that is possible through cellular phones.
Sources in the federal government told Pakistan Today that the decision was taken in wake of a circular issued by the Cabinet Division about the threat of breach of official communication after Ministry of Information Technology issued a warning in this regard.
On September 11, 2018, the Cabinet Division issued a letter stating that “hostile intelligence agencies have reportedly deployed modern interception solutions available which are capable of monitoring cellular (voice/SMS) communication of target area of interest in Diplomatic Enclave, Islamabad, to intercept cellular communication of own personnel deputed on sensitive assignments.”
In order to minimise the threat, the Cabinet Division requested all departments located in close vicinity of Diplomatic Enclave to avoid discussing sensitive and classified official information on cellular phones, keeping mobile data option to 3G/LTE and avoiding the use of SMS for passage of sensitive and classified information.
It was also suggested that officials should use landline telephones and resort to personal interaction for discussing sensitive and classified issues.
Sources said that since the PM Office is only meters away from the Diplomatic Enclave and only a road divides the two premises, the officials in the PM Office have adopted alternatives to the use of cellular phones for sensitive communication.
“Even the prime minister and his staff have adopted precautionary measures to dodge any attempt to tap the official conversation,” sources added.
It merits mention that the while the PTI’s November 2014 sit-in was in full swing in the Red Zone, the outgoing PML-N government had outsourced the security of the Diplomatic Enclave to the diplomatic mission of a major western country.
The decision had been taken on the pretext of the dearth of funds, state-of-the-art equipment as well as the skilled manpower needed to secure the Red Zone.
The media had reported that the security of the Diplomatic Enclave had been outsourced to a foreign mission and all the five gates of the Diplomatic Enclave had been constructed through foreign funding.
Moreover, all five gates were equipped with modern equipment provided by the foreign mission, which was far more effective at detecting explosives.
The report went on to state that since local police were not trained to operate the equipment, the embassy had arranged for those on security detail to be trained in the use of the equipment and the staff’s salaries were also paid by the diplomatic mission in question.
Specially trained security staff was guarding the gates of the enclave round the clock and all vehicles entering the area were also scanned by the equipment installed at the gates, sources said.
In addition, personnel from the capital police were also deployed at all gates who manually recorded the details of all visitors and their vehicles.
Sources, however, identified several key areas of concern with regards to the enclave’s security. The expansive nature of the enclave made it a difficult area to protect completely since it is accessible from several sides, they added.
“There is a dense forest area between the Kashmir Highway and the enclave, which is frequented by scavengers and locals who come to firewood there,” they said.
“The walls of the enclave are not high enough to guard against intruders and there is only one guard tower in the area, so anyone who wants to conduct surveillance of the area can do so easily,” sources added.
The enclave is bordered on one side by the Prime Minister’s House, while a water collection point near Gate-9 of PM House opens that area up for people from Bari Imam. Consequently, anyone there can easily access both the enclave and the wall of PM House.
To the north, a nullah runs from the Narola village and Muslim Colony, through the enclave and into Rawal Dam, which could also be a potential security risk. Moreover, policemen deployed at check posts around the area only check vehicles and do not carry out much scrutiny.