Pakistan using ISI tech for corona patients, system was designed to trace terrorists: Imran


16,272 affected, 361 died, 4,052 recovered, Punjab 6,220, Sindh 6,053, KP 2,313, Balochistan 974, GB 333, AJK 66

Nation special report

ISLAMABAD: In wake of increasing fatalities and number of deaths due to deadly coronavirus pandemic in Pakistan,  Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday surprised the nation when he revealed during a live ‘Ehsaas Telethon’ that the government was using the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) technology to trace the suspected Covid-19 patients.

“The government is using a system, which was originally designed to trace terrorists, to find the suspected coronavirus cases,” Premier Imran said during a live programme held to generate funds to mitigate the impact of the virus-induced lockdown.

The massive fund-raising programme was organised by the government and private TV channels to generate funds to help the marginalised segments of society amid the economic crisis spawned by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. Cricketers, singers, actors, businessmen, overseas Pakistanis and several others called during the telethon while the premier continued responding to queries of journalists and callers.

“Tracking and testing of patients is the only way to reopen businesses. No single government can battle the pandemic,” the prime minister said, urging the entire nation to join hands to fight the virus keeping in mind the “difficult economic times ahead”.

Imran Khan appealed to overseas Pakistanis for donations to coronavirus relief fund “The country will have to move towards a smart lockdown as a balance needs to be struck between keeping people safe and ensuring the coronavirus does not spread.”

An overseas Pakistani called and pledged to donate Rs10 million to the PM Relief Fund, if the prime minister helped him get back his land illegally occupied by “Mansha Bomb”.

“We will help you even if you don’t donate,” Imran said, as the anchorpersons burst into laughter when one of them quipped that “someone is trying to fix a match here”.

The prime minister said that Pakistani media was used to hide politicians’ corruption. “Anchors (TVs) were given money to do planted programmes,” he said, adding that current affairs shows had become ‘meaningless’ for people. “Current affairs programmes produce no results,” he said.

Telegraph report

Referring Imran Khan’s speech, London based newspaper, The Telegraph newspaper has reported that Pakistan uses military spy technology to track Covid-19 cases. Tracking technology from Pakistan’s feared military spy agency is being used to trace Covid-19 cases as the country tries to switch from a broad lockdown to targeted restrictions allowing more of the economy to resume.

The system from the military’s Inter Services Intelligence directorate (ISI) was originally devised to track terrorists and is believed to be based on mobile phone data.

Generals last week said that “all army resources are being used at all levels to combat this pandemic” and the military was fully supporting the government. Assistance includes the use of telecommunications and intelligence, military sources said. One Western official said the military had well developed telecoms spying systems, potentially allowing it to detect when someone moved out of a defined quarantine area.

“The ISI has given us a great system for track and trace,” the prime minister, Imran Khan, said last week. “It was originally used against terrorism, but now it is has come in useful against coronavirus.”

Troops will also be used to man cordons and checkpoints around quarantined virus hotspots if necessary. Army medics have been deployed to aid the Covid-19 response and the military’s five testing laboratories are working with the civilian National Institute of Health to increase testing capacity.

“A smart lockdown, and testing, tracing and quarantining will drive our efforts against Covid-19. We will have a targeted lockdown only for virus hotspots and clusters,” said Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar, spokesman for the military’s information wing.

Pakistan’s military is widely considered the most dominant institution in Pakistan and has governed the nation for much of its history. Its military spy agency has a formidable domestic security role, as well as being accused of a history of supporting militants to provide foreign policy muscle in Kashmir and Afghanistan.

The army’s increasing role in the response to the Covid-19 pandemic has led to speculation Mr Khan has been sidelined after appearing to hesitate in the early days of the outbreak, the Telegraph claimed.