Tuesday July 23, 2024

PM's adviser suggests not having conversations that lead to fear of phone tapping

PTI' leader Salman Akram Raja stresses that state has no right to pry into someone's house

By Web Desk
July 11, 2024
Senior PML-N leader and Prime Ministers Adviser on Political and Public Affairs Rana Sanaullah speaks at a press conference. — AFP
Senior PML-N leader and Prime Minister's Adviser on Political and Public Affairs Rana Sanaullah speaks at a press conference. — AFP

Senior Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader and Prime Minister's Adviser on Political and Public Affairs Rana Sanaullah has provided a simple solution to those concerned about the government's recent move allowing a spy agency to tap and intercept telephone calls.

Speaking on Geo News' programme "Capital Talk" on Wednesday, Sanaullah said: "If somebody is worried over their conversations being 'heard', then they should not engage in such verbal exchanges to begin with."

His remarks come days after PM Shehbaz Sharif-led government empowered the country's premier spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to intercept and trace calls and messages in the apprehension of an offence against national security.

The federal cabinet approved the relevant circular allowing a designated officer, not below grade 18, of the ISI to carry out the tracing of calls under Section 54 of the Telecommunication (Re-organization) Act 1996.

The move reflects the government's stance in favour of stricter social media regulations and comes against the backdrop of prevailing ban on X.

The decision, however, has been received with notable scepticism by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) as well as the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).

Expressing his views on the same programme, PTI leader Salman Akram Raja said that the state has no right to pry into someone's house and that no one would be safe if conversations are to be "heard" on the basis of mere suspicion.

His remarks came as a day earlier, Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Omar Ayub announced that he would challenge the notification through his lawyer Babar Awan in the court, as it was unconstitutional and against the fundamental rights envisaged in the constitution.

"Asif Zardari, Nawaz Sharif, Shehbaz Sharif, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Maryam Nawaz will also go to prison because of this law," Ayub said, adding that all of them would be seen pursuing their cases in courts.

Whereas, the HRCP has expressed concern over the "unconstitutional notification" of the government and has stressed that owing to the government and spy agencies' poor track record, the measure would invariably be used to clamp down on political dissent through means of blackmail, harassment and intimidation.

Slamming the "flagrant violation of citizens’ constitutionally protected rights to liberty, dignity and privacy under Articles 9, 14 and 1," the watchdog has called on Islamabad to urgently introduce “watertight” checks and balances to all surveillance practices.

Meanwhile, the government's notification empowering the ISI to tap and intercept phone calls has been challenged in the Lahore High Court, The News reported on Thursday.

The petition filed via Advocate Nadeem Sarwar by a citizen named Fahad Shabbir stresses that the government has issued a notification allowing the ISI to tap citizens' phones under Section 54 of the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) Act 1996 but the rules have not been devised under which the notification has been issued.

The plea mentions PM Shehbaz, the federal government and the PTA as respondents.