PTI to challenge notification permitting phone tapping powers to ISI

In response to the government’s formally allowing the top intelligence agency to trace calls of citizens to counter threats to the “national security”, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on Tuesday announced to challenge the government’s move. Leader of Opposition in National Assembly Omar Ayub said 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. The federal government has given its nod to 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 has approved the relevant circular allowing a designated officer of the ISI to carry out the tracing of calls under Section 54 of the Telecommunication (Re-organisation) Act 1996. However, the officer nominated by the agency cannot be of less than grade 18. The said section of the Telecommunications Act allows the federal government to authorise any person or persons to intercept calls and messages or to trace calls through any telecommunication system in the interest of national security. It also states that the government will have preference and priority in the telecommunication system over any licensee for the defence or security of the country against any foreign aggression. “The federal government in the interest of national security and in the apprehension of any offence is pleased to authorise the officers […] to be nominated from time to time by ISI to intercept calls and messages or to trace calls through any communication system,” read the notification issued by the Ministry of Information on Monday. Meanwhile, the opposition leader said those giving authority for call tracing would themselves fall victim to it. He also said those authorising the intelligence agency to trace calls would be put behind the bars. “Asif Zardari, Nawaz Sharif, Shehbaz Sharif, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Maryam Nawaz will also go to the prison because of this law,” Ayub said, adding that all of them would be seen pursuing their cases in courts.