The Israeli newspaper ‘Harties’ reported that the Pakistani agencies allegedly purchased mobile phone hacking technology from an Israeli company.
According to the newspaper, the Israeli firm Cellebrite sold technology tools to Pakistan through its office in Singapore, which are currently being utilized by the FIA (Federal Investigation Agency) and the police.
The FIA and police have been using products from this Israeli firm since 2012, with Salsbert Asia Pacific being the supplier for Pakistani companies until 2019.
In 2012, the Sindh Police acquired the Israeli firm’s UFED Touch Ultimate device.
It is worth noting that Pakistan has no official relations with Israel, and its passport states that it is ‘valid for all countries except Israel.’ However, despite this, Cellebrite’s tools were reportedly sold to Pakistan.
Cellebrite is a leader in digital intelligence, which empowers government agencies, enterprises, and law enforcement agencies.
The firm’s services are used by countries around the world, but many of its clients are criticized for violating human rights and hindering freedom of speech.
As Haaretz has reported many timers, the Cellebrite’s clients have included countries like Belarus, China (including Hong Kong), Uganda, Venezuela, Indonesia, the Philippines, Russia, and Ethiopia, as well as Bangladesh’s notorious Rapid Action Battalion.
All of the above are questionable and have allegedly violated human rights, raising concern.
Is Pakistan Using Cyber Technology Against Human Rights?
The U.S. State Department’s 2022 report on human rights in Pakistan highlights significant issues concerning human rights and freedom of expression.
Security forces in the country have been involved in serious violations, including unlawful killings, forced disappearances, and instances of torture and cruel treatment.
In 2016, Pakistan enacted the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), a cybercrime law that severely restricts online freedom of expression, especially when it comes to criticizing the government.
According to the Pakistan-based group Freedom Network, in 2021, at least 23 Pakistani journalists were persecuted for allegedly “slandering” the security forces, justice system, and intelligence agencies. Shockingly, one journalist even faced charges of treason.
These developments raise concerns about the state of human rights and the suppression of freedom of speech in Pakistan, highlighting the need for greater attention and efforts to safeguard fundamental rights.
Israeli lawyer Eitay Mack has expressed strong criticism towards Cellebrite and the Israeli Defense Ministry, stressing the need for proper oversight of the company’s activities.
Haaretz reported that Israel had previously engaged in cyber diplomacy, exporting digital weaponry, including NSO’s Pegasus spyware, to countries like Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Morocco, in exchange for establishing official relations or secret agreements.
However, Mack points out that due to internal political considerations in Islamabad and Israel’s strategic relationship with India, any sale of security equipment to Pakistan is unlikely to improve Pakistan’s relations with Israel.
The situation underscores the complexities of international relations and the need for responsible regulation of technology exports to mitigate potential misuse and protect human rights.