Pakistan’s IT Ministry authorises ISI to ‘intercept calls for national security’

The Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication has granted the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) the authority to intercept and trace calls in the interest of national security. This authorisation, issued through a notification on Monday, is based on Section 54 of the Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-organisation) Act, 1996.

The notification stated, “In exercise of the powers conferred under Section 54… the federal government in the interest of national security and in the apprehension of any offence, is pleased to authorise 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.”

This decision marks a significant move, especially considering recent legal discussions about privacy and the interception of communications.

In December, during a hearing concerning audio leaks, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) was informed that the government had not authorised any intelligence agency to tap audio conversations. Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan conveyed this to the court while addressing a petition filed by Bushra Bibi, the spouse of former Prime Minister Imran Khan. The petition had sought action against a leaked conversation purportedly involving her and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Latif Khosa.

Bushra Bibi’s application, submitted to the IHC on December 6, argued that the recording breached her constitutional rights to dignity and privacy as ensured by Article 14. The petition, filed through Khosa, listed the principal secretary to the prime minister and the secretaries of defense and interior as respondents.

The recent authorisation granted to ISI reflects the government’s ongoing efforts to balance national security concerns with individual privacy rights, a contentious issue in the current political and legal landscape of Pakistan.

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