Pakistan exists in the age of audio-video leaks, which have brought to light sex scandals and political controversies, as tapes including top politicians, senior judges, eminent clerics, and renowned celebrities take the internet by storm occasionally.
Denials pour in, wars wage on social media and lawsuits are filed in defense and rejection of the leaked content. The idea that ‘more are coming’, has become a hot topic of discussion, with many senior journalists involved in the revelation race on Pakistan’s Twitter space.
Pakistan, however, is not the only nation facing this never-ending storm. Espionage and surveillance are as old as human history and make headlines everywhere in today’s world.
When Indian magazine Surya published the country’s first sex scandal of a Dalit leader Jagjivan Ram in 1978, effectively ending the Congress leader’s political career, who knew that Varun Gandhi, the son of the publication’s owner Maneka Gandhi, would also be ‘honey-trapped’ and photographed in a compromising position four decades later? Notable Indian journalist Khushwant Singh, who was Surya’s editor at the time of the 1978 leak and had linked the photographs to Kamasutra descriptions, could not live to watch Varun Gandhi’s scandal unfold.
Iran was also not new to the scandals when in April 2021 an audio leak of the country’s then foreign minister Javad Zarif ravaged world politics. Zarif claimed US politician John Kerry, when he was serving as secretary of state in the Obama administration, informed him of more than 200 Israeli operations in Syria. Kerry has previously been accused of colluding with Iranian leaders to undermine the Trump administration.
Two years ago, the Islamic Republic of Iran had to face humiliation in the world, when an explicit video of the former Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad province governor Ali Muhammad Ahmadi was posted online on August 4, 2019. A second was leaked on August 9, 2019, which showed Sadra Mayor Abbas Malekzadeh in a compromising position with a woman.
Media then reported that Ahmadi had been set up by a foreign intelligence agency, who tried to get him to travel to Canada and take part in a TV show critical of the Iranian government. It was claimed that the four-minute video, believed to be filmed with a hidden camera, was publicised because of Ahmadi’s refusal. Ahmadi has been described as a reformist and centrist and had close ties to the government of then president Hassan Rouhani.
About a decade before Ahmadi’s scandal, a sex tape featuring top Iranian actress Zahra Amir Ebrahimi was leaked. The scandal ruined Amir’s life, who was arrested but eventually left Iran and moved to France.
Pakistan and India’s former colonial master, Britain too has a history of scandals ranging from the infamous 1960s ‘Profumo Affair’ to Mat Hancock’s June 2021 scandal, in which he resigned as health secretary following publicized CCTV footage that showed him kissing his colleague, Gina Colangelo in the office.
Former British secretary of war John Profumo had to tender his resignation in June 1963, following revelations that he had lied to the House of Commons about his affair with an alleged prostitute Christine Keeler.
It is not only Pakistan, US, India, Iran, or Britain as today’s world is full of scandals and leaks. People live in the age when Facebook virtually controls the lives of more than three billion of the Earth’s inhabitants. The West fears China could have access to global data, while Israel’s notorious spyware, Pegasus has become a tool available to delinquent states to exercise control over people’s privacy. And in the latest result of all the privacy invasion, Apple has sued the NSO Group of Israel, who are the makers of Pegasus, for attacking iPhones with the spyware. Protection of privacy, it seems, is an elusive concept in today’s world.