Wed 21 July 2021:
A data leak has revealed that one number once used by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan was in a list of thousands of people potentially targeted for surveillance through phones by Isreali spyware company NSO Group, media reports said.
“The numbers of Imran Khan and several of his ambassadors in India appear on the list as potential targets, Le Monde said in its report. “Not surprisingly, Pakistan is the most scrutinised country.”
Moreover, diplomats of China, Iran, Nepal and Saudi Arabia in India were selected as potential targets by users of Pegasus software of the NSO group.
Responding to the hacking and surveillance reports , Pakistan’s Information Minister Fawad Chaudhary said he was “extremely concerned” on “unethical policies” of Modi government which “have dangerously polarised India and the region.”
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The investigation called Pegasus Project by Amnesty International and coordinated by Forbidden Stories in collaboration with 80 journalists has shown that 300 mobile phone numbers in India were on the list as potential targets.. The people who owned these numbers include two serving ministers in the Narendra Modi government, three Opposition leaders, one constitutional authority, 40 journalists, rights activists, lawyers and business persons.
While surveillance on diplomats of Pakistan and China in India may be seen part of the routine given that relation with both neighbors ebbs and flows frequently, the targeting of diplomats from some of the countries on the list is surprising.
According to the Washington Post, which was also part of the Pegasus project alongside 15 other global media outlets including web portal The Wire, two employees of the India unit of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation including country head Hari Menon and two employees working at US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention based in New Delhi were also on the target list.
NSO group claims it sells Pegasus only to “vetted governments” which makes the accusations against India’s Modi government more plausible even as the IT minister rubbished the reports though the government did not deny licensing of the Israeli hacking software. Additionally, the Guardian reported the attacks on Indian numbers began shortly after Prime Minister Modi visited Israel and met his counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu in 2017.
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