Srinagar: The family phone numbers of former Jammu and Kashmiri chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, Kashmiri politicians, separatist leaders and journalists have been selected as possible targets for phone surveillance between 2017 and 2019, said Friday the online information portal The Wire.
The Wire, which is part of a 17-member global investigative media consortium, reported that two of Mufti’s family members were found on a list of people who could potentially be targeted by Pegasus, spyware from Israeli military grade intended to infiltrate phones for spy and surveillance.
Their names were chosen months before Mufti’s coalition government collapsed after the Bharatiya Janata party withdrew its support.
Sharing the link to The Wire’s story, Mufti said in a tweet: “Spyware used against terrorists has been turned into a weapon to deal with political opponents and dissidents. The BJP was inspired by the way the British suspected and treated Indians during colonial times. The GOI has become a thug and blatantly violates basic human rights. “
Mufti, who is now a scathing critic of BJP and part of an alliance pushing for the restoration of statehood and special status in the region, told The Wire that surveillance, as a concept, does not was not new to Kashmiris.
Certainly, the presence of a number does not indicate that the individual’s phone has been hacked, but simply that he is interested. In the absence of digital forensics of specific devices, it is not possible to conclusively establish that the phones linked to these numbers were hacked.
In total, around 25 people from the region were found on the list of potential targets, according to the website.
Separatist leader and Hurriyat conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, separatist leader Bilal Lone and former University of Delhi professor SAR Geelani were also on the list. Forensic analysis has found traces of the Pegasus software on Lone and Geelani’s phones, The Wire reported.
“Hacking people’s phones for surveillance purposes is a willful and direct violation of the universally recognized fundamental right to privacy, a fundamental human right and those involved in it should be brought to justice,” a spokesperson for Hurriyat.
The brother of J&K Apni party chairman Altaf Bukhari Tariq Bukhari was also found on the list of potential suspects between 2017 and 2019. Bukhari was one of 14 Kashmiri leaders who attended a landmark meeting with the prime minister Narendra Modi last month.
At least five Kashmiri journalists have also been named.
The Pegasus row erupted on Sunday evening after the consortium reported that India was among countries using Israeli firm NSO Group phone hacking software to potentially target politicians, journalists and activists.
The first report claimed that 38 Indian journalists, including three current members of the Hindustan Times and one of the sister publication Mint, were among 180 journalists potentially targeted worldwide. Subsequent reports indicated that Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, former election commissioner Ashok Lavasa and two sitting Union ministers – including Vaishnaw – were on the list of potential targets.
The allegations shocked Parliament. The government as well as the BJP refused any wrongdoing and insisted that India had a well-established protocol for wiretapping and that it was only used for national security. But the opposition called for a separate investigation into the charges.