Controversial ISI Phone Tapping Powers Challenged in LHC

The Lahore High Court (LHC) has recently received a petition which challenged the government’s decision to grant the phone tapping power to Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). This controversial move, justified by the Shehbaz Sharif-led coalition government under the pretext of “national security,” has sparked significant debate.

The petition was filed on Wednesday by a citizen named Fahad Shabbir. It lists Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, the federal government, and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) among its respondents. The petition argues that a notification issued by the government allows the ISI to intercept citizens’ phone calls, despite the absence of established rules under the relevant section of the PTA Act. “The Constitution of Pakistan upholds the privacy and freedom of expression of its citizens,” the petition asserts.

Controversial ISI Phone Tapping Powers Challenged in LHC

The expanded powers granted to the ISI come in the wake of a high court judge’s criticism over the “criminal act” of phone surveillance. This development has ignited widespread criticism and concerns about the misuse of powers and violation of fundamental rights.

Legal and Public Reactions

The petition filed in the LHC also references a ruling from the Indian Supreme Court, which declared phone tapping a breach of constitutional rights. It requests the court to invalidate the notification and suspend its enforcement until a final verdict is delivered. Additionally, it calls on the government to draft rules under Section 56 of the PTA Act.

While the ruling coalition staunchly defends the move to legitimize ISI’s expanded powers, opposition parties and legal bodies have expressed strong disapproval. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) have condemned the notification, arguing that it grants excessive powers to the intelligence agency under the guise of national security.

PTI has questioned the oversight of such extensive powers, highlighting the absence of specified parameters to prevent misuse. In a strong statement, the party vowed to challenge the government’s move, questioning “who will monitor the misuse of such powers as no parameters have been specified.”

Opposition’s Criticism

Omar Ayub, the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, has been particularly vocal in his criticism. He accused the government of fascism, stating, “Only a fascist government would grant an intelligence agency complete authority to tap citizens’ phones.” Ayub warned that the move could backfire with serious consequences, suggesting that the notification could be used to blackmail and subjugate politicians and media persons, including prominent figures like Bilawal Bhutto, Asif Zardari, and Maryam Nawaz.

Ayub announced his intention to challenge the notification in court through his lawyer, Dr Babar Awan, arguing that “this SRO is unconstitutional and against the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution.”

Pakistan Bar Council’s Response

The PBC has also condemned the move, labelling the “sweeping powers” given to the ISI as alarming and unjustified. The bar council argued that the notification violates fundamental rights and undermines the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law. They noted that the timing of the notification is troubling, given the ongoing proceedings before the apex court and the Islamabad High Court (IHC).

The PBC’s statement described the federal government’s action as a blatant disregard for the rule of law and judicial independence. They asserted that the notification infringes upon individuals’ dignity and security, violating their right to life and privacy. The council concluded that the government’s actions are unconstitutional and disrespectful to the rule of law. Because there is no criteria for intercepting calls, messages, and tracing.

This ongoing legal battle highlights the tension between national security measures and the protection of constitutional rights in Pakistan. The outcome of this case could have significant implications for privacy and freedom of expression in the country.

See Also: IHC Justice May Issue Notice to PTA for Allegedly Enabling Phone Call Tapping

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Onsa Mustafa

Onsa is a Software Engineer and a tech blogger who focuses on providing the latest information regarding the innovations happening in the IT world. She likes reading, photography, travelling and exploring nature.

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