IHC Demands PM to Identify Those Behind Mass Surveillance in Audio Leaks Case

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has declared that any form of surveillance on citizens is illegal and unconstitutional, and has demanded that PM Shehbaz Sharif explain who is responsible for the mass surveillance in audio leaks case. This decision came from IHC Justice Babar Sattar in response to a plea by Bushra Bibi, wife of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) founder Imran Khan, and Najamus Saqib, son of former chief justice Saqib Nisar, regarding recent audio leaks.

Justice Sattar’s written order specifies that the federal government is responsible for the surveillance of four million citizens. The Prime Minister and his cabinet members are “collectively and individually” accountable for this mass surveillance. The IHC has instructed the Prime Minister to submit a detailed report on the legal framework governing the surveillance system within six weeks. This report must clarify whether the surveillance activities are being conducted in accordance with the law and the constitution. Furthermore, the Prime Minister must identify who is responsible for the installation and operation of the surveillance system that is affecting citizens’ privacy.

IHC Demands PM to Identify Those Behind Mass Surveillance in Audio Leaks Case

In addition to addressing the federal government, the IHC has issued a contempt of court notice to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) Chairman and its members, directing them to respond within six weeks. The court expressed concern that the PTA might have misinterpreted the surveillance system in their report. Justice Sattar has ordered the telecommunication authority to submit their response to the surveillance system in a sealed envelope. The report should specify where they have installed the system and who can access it.

He also instructed the telecom companies involved to submit their reports on the Lawful Interception Management System by July 5. These companies must ensure that the Interception Management System does not have unauthorized access to their networks.

Additionally, the federal government has been allowed to submit supplementary documents related to the case. The court has scheduled the next hearing for September 4, 2024, to review the submitted reports and any additional evidence.

This case began in May of the previous year, when Justice Sattar asked intelligence agencies and the PTA to trace the source of the audio leaks. At the same time, IHC also instructed the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) not to broadcast any unauthorized and leaked conversations of citizens.

See Also: PTA & Others Heavily Fined in Bushra Bibi Audio Leaks Case

Reports from the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) indicated that they can tap phone calls through mobile apps and viruses, making it difficult for intelligence agencies to trace the source of the leaks. The ISI report specifically mentioned the challenges posed by encryption in tracing these sources.

Justice Sattar has advised the assistant attorney general to file submissions along with the reply to the court notice issued to the IB. Meanwhile, respondents in the audio leaks case, including the IB, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), and Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), have submitted applications requesting Justice Sattar’s recusal from the case.

The IHC’s ruling underscores the importance of upholding citizens’ privacy rights and the need for transparency and accountability in government surveillance practices. As the case progresses, the court’s directives aim to ensure that any surveillance conducted is lawful and respects the constitutional rights of Pakistani citizens.

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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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