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Pakistan: Govt authorizes ISI to intercept and trace calls for “national security”

Pakistan: Govt authorizes ISI to intercept and trace calls for “national security”

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Virendra Pandit

New Delhi: In a move that surprised no one, Islamabad has authorized the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of the Pakistani Army to intercept and trace calls in the “interest of national security,” the media reported on Tuesday.

The Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication has authorized the ISI in this regard, the media said, quoting a notification issued on Monday.

This authorization was granted to the dreaded spy agency under Section 54 of the Pakistan Telecommunication (Reorganization) Act, 1996, the newspaper Dawn reported.

“In exercise of the powers conferred under Section 54 … the federal government in the interest of national security and the apprehension of any offense, is pleased to authorize the officers not below the rank of Grade 18 to be nominated from time to time by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to intercept calls and messages or to trace calls through any telecommunication system as envisaged under Section 54 of the Act,” the notification read.

In December 2023, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) was informed during the hearing of a case related to audio leaks that the government had not permitted any intelligence agency to tap audio conversations.

Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan had informed the IHC during the hearing of a petition filed by former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s spouse Bushra Bibi, who was seeking action against a leaked conversation, allegedly featuring her and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) leader Latif Khosa.

On December 6 last year, the former First Lady contended that the recording beached the right to dignity and privacy ensured by Article 14 of the Constitution.

The application, filed in the IHC through Khosa, cited the Principal Secretary to the PM and secretaries of defense and interior as respondents.

Imran Khan’s political outfit PTI reacted to the fresh notification, stating that granting “unlimited powers for phone tapping to authorities” was synonymous with a “lack of privacy and human rights.”

“Lack of privacy and human rights is one big reason many companies are leaving Pakistan,” the party posted on its official X account. “SIFC initiative is already suffering. This will dent the mission further!”

Former human rights minister and PTI member, Shireen Mazari, also took to her X account to denounce the move. She referred the move to George Orwell’s novel “1984”, which is about the use of censorship by totalitarian regimes to control information, manipulate reality, and suppress dissent.


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