Call for steps to counter US surveillance

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ISLAMABAD: Latest disclosures about surveillance of electronic communications worldwide by the US secret agencies demand that Pakistan should take counter measures to check the online espionage, said Mushahid Hussain Syed, chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Defence. Talking to Dawn after his meeting with a delegation of the Pakistan Information Security Association (Pisa) headed by Ammar Jafri on Tuesday, Mr Syed said he was preparing the draft of a private member’s bill to be presented in parliament after consultation with all stakeholders suggesting measures to check online espionage.

Mr Syed, who is also PML-Q’s secretary general, said his proposal seeking allocation of funds for establishing a cyber task force and devising a cyber security policy strategy had been approved by the Senate’s finance committee and included in recommendations sent to the National Assembly, which is expected to pass the budget in a couple of days.

The senator said he had requested Pisa to help draft the cyber security policy strategy since it had the required skills and experience. He also sought Pisa’s help in establishing a national `Computer Emergency Response Team.

He said the US had been involved in cyber war with China and Iran for many years and Pakistan was facing a serious security threat in the wake of a recent report that Pakistan was second among the countries subjected most to US intelligence surveillance with almost 13.5 billion reports in just one month – March 2013. Most of the intelligence had been gathered from computer and telephone networks, he said.

Given the security threat posed by snooping and spying by the US through its agencies like the Central Investigation Agency and National Security Agency, Mr Syed said a cyber security task force should be set up immediately to propose counter measures.

Pakistan has sought explanation from the US over reports that it has been a major target of intelligence surveillance, asking it to respect the privacy of its citizens.

The apprehensions were conveyed to US Charge d’Affaires Richard Hoagland at a meeting held at the Foreign Office earlier this month.