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Monday July 15, 2024

ISI, IB can directly obtain data from telecom companies, IHC told

The PTA’s counsel told the court that no agency was given permission for surveillance

By Awais Yousafzai
June 26, 2024
Islamabad High Court board can be seen outside the IHC Building. — AFP/File
Islamabad High Court board can be seen outside the IHC Building. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Additional Attorney General Munawar Iqbal Duggal has told the Islamabad High Court in the audio leaks case that Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) can directly collect data from telecom service providers, and other law enforcement agencies can obtain data from these agencies when needed.

Justice Babar Sattar of the Islamabad High Court was hearing the audio leaks case on Tuesday when the additional attorney general said that in the case of missing persons, the Sindh High Court had directed the service providers to give the data to secret agencies and they had been taking the data according to the mechanism of the same policy.

He said a new policy came in 2013 after the Sindh High Court’s decision and the ministry of interior issued an SOP under which authorised officers from secret agencies request for data, while the ISI and the IB can take obtain data directly from service providers. He said that other law enforcement agencies may collect data from these agencies if necessary.

The PTA’s counsel told the court that no agency was given permission for surveillance.

Justice Babar Sattar addressed police counsel Tahir Kazim and said that people should know how law enforcement agencies were invading people’s privacy.The court also turned down a request of the additional attorney general for in-camera proceedings of the case and observed that it is not national security. The court inquired the law officer whether he was saying that the tapping of the judges’ chamber or the Prime Minister’s House was done by hostile agencies.

The federal government requested the court to vacate the restraining order of the court with regard to providing data to intelligence agencies by the telecom operators.

The IHC observed that the legality of this aspect has to be examined as there is no law to allow anyone to tap phone calls and what is happening is illegal. It said telecom companies were giving data of citizens without any scrutiny and they were equally responsible.

The court further observed that a law exists in the country and for the last 11 years no one has taken a warrant to take data. It said Pakistan was not the only country that was fighting against terrorism, and after 9/11 this situation happened in many countries of the world.

Justice Sattar observed that the government will have to answer court queries or it could approach the Supreme Court to get his orders revoked.A telecom company’s counsel submitted that the provision of data is a condition of the PTA for obtaining a licence by telecom operators, and authorised agencies can get two percent data of all customers of a telecom company simultaneously.Justice Sattar observed that if telecom operators install such a system, then how they are not responsible. The court said there is no law to allow anyone to tap phone calls and the court will issue show-cause notices to the PTA chairman and board members for contempt of court.

Adjourning the hearing of the case, the court said the next hearing will be mentioned in a written order.