Law minister defends phone tapping by spy agencies

It’s not first time

ISLAMABAD   -   In response to the opposition’s criticism over SRO regarding intercepting calls by the country’s main spy agency, Minister for Law Azam Nazeer Tarar in the National Assembly explained that it was not for the first time to allow the ISI to intercept calls.

“The Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-organisation) Act, 1996 has been in place since 1996 that provides to trace calls and messages of citizens,” said the minister, in response to the point of order raised by the leader of opposition in the national assembly Omar Ayub Khan.

The Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication the other day had authorised the intelligence wing to tap phones, stating that this authority was granted under Section-54 of the Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-organisation) Act, 1996.

The government’s notification reads, “In exercise of the powers conferred under Section 54 … the federal government in the interest of national security and in the apprehension of any offence, is pleased to authorise the officers not below the rank of grade 18 to be nominated from time to time by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to intercept calls and messages or to trace calls through any telecommunication system as envisaged under Section 54 of the Act.”

The minister for law asked the reason from the opposition for not changing this law its government era [PTI’s government]. “Why did not you [PTI’s government] change it if you have reservation on it,” he said it will help counter terrorist activities in the country.

The Minister said it has been made mandatory to provide names of the officers not below grade-18. He said PTI has announced its intention to challenge the government’s notification.

Earlier, Omar Ayub Khan said that this SRO will create trouble for different segments of society including press as it was at attempt to control ‘free speech’. “Only a fascist government would grant an intelligence agency complete authority to tap citizens’ phones. You will also once face the music under this law,” he said, adding that the premier has cut his own throat with this decision. Khan said, “This SRO will be the tool to blackmail and subjugate all politicians,”.

He also asked the chair to take action against the raid on his house as the police should have informed the speaker of the national assembly before conducting a raid on the house of the elected member.

Earlier, the house adopted a motion authorizing the Speaker National Assembly to appoint a special committee on Kashmir comprising 22 members in proportion to their representation in the Lower House.

The motion, moved by Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar, also authorized the Speaker to include six Senators, three each from the treasury and the parties based on their strength in the Senate.  The Speaker was also authorized to make changes in the composition of the committee as and when required.

The treasury benches also introduced bills including “The South City University Bill, 2024]”, “The Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Bill, 2024”  “The Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2024) (Amendment in Article- 175A and 215)”, “The National Commission for Minorities Bill, 2024”, “The Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2024) (Article-51 and 106)”, “The Nippon Institute of Advanced Sciences Bill, 2024” and “The High Courts (Establishment) (Amendment) Bill, 2024”. The chair referred the bills to the standing committees concerned.

The House also referred “The International Institute of Technology, Culture and Health Sciences Bill, 2024” and “The State-Owned Enterprises (Governance and Operations) Bill, 2024 to the standing committees concerned for further deliberations before putting them for passage.

The House passed “The Christian Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2024” and “The Pakistan Psychological Council Bill, 2024.”