SRINAGAR: The intrusive surveillance project unearthed recently had 25 Kashmiri citizens on its target, Delhi based news portal The Wire reported.
Apart from a number of journalists, these include separatist leaders Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and Bilal Gani Lone. It was already reported that late SAR Geelani’s phone was also targeted for almost two years.
The snooping software, Pegasus is owned by an Israeli firm NSO. After the leak, the company has issued a statement saying their clients have nothing to do with the list. “It is not a list of targets or potential targets of NSO`s customers, and your repeated reliance on this list and association of the people on this list as potential surveillance targets is false and misleading,” NSO has said.
The Wire reported that Bilal Gani Lone was targeted when he was in politics and had not moved to manage the bakery business that he had started. “I used to hear rumours about phone tapping. It never occurred to me that I also may be a target. But I am too small a person to do anything about it,” Lone was quoted saying by The Wire.
It was French non-profit, Forbidden Stories, and Amnesty International that got a list of 50,000 numbers, which are believed to have been selected as potential targets of surveillance by 10 countries. The information was shared with 16 media houses across the world for subsequent investigations. “The appearance of a number in the leaked database does not necessarily mean that the phone in question had been infected, but it does mean that the phone number was likely selected for potential surveillance,” the report has clarified.
Others on the leaked database include at least two members of Mehbooba Mufti’s family. “In fact, Mufti’s family members were chosen for potential surveillance just months before the government collapsed as the BJP pulled out of the coalition in June 2018,” the report said.
Others in the list include Altaf Bukhari’s brother Tariq Bukhari, Syed Ali Geelani’s son Syed Naseem Geelani, Zaffar Akbar Bhat and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq along with his driver. The list includes Waqar Bhatti, journalists Muzamil Jaleel of the Indian Express, Aurangzeb Naqshbandi with Hindustan Times, Iftikhar Geelani formerly with DNA and Sumir Kaul of PTI, along with Shabir Hussain, identified by The Wire as a Delhi-based political commentator.
“A prominent businessman based in the Valley was also of interest for potential surveillance, as was a Delhi-based businessman who is known to enjoy strong political contacts with all mainstream J&K parties. Their identities are being withheld on their request,” the report reads. “The phone of a handicrafts businessman based in downtown Srinagar was also potentially targeted in the campaign. He refused to comment.”
Mirwaiz’s spokesman has reacted to the leak suggesting Mirwaiz Umar, Bilal Ghani lone and Masroor Abbas Ansari were on the list of potential targets. “APHC spokesman said that hacking into people’s phone for surveillance, is a wilful and direct violation of the universally acknowledged fundamental right to privacy a basic human right and those involved in it should be tried,” the statement said.