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Commission has power to investigate tapers, leakers of audio calls: security czar

Rana Sanaullah admits govt was under pressure by civil society and others to pursue inquiry on audio leaks

Web Desk
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan addresses a press conference in Islamabad on January 3, 2023. — APP
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan addresses a press conference in Islamabad on January 3, 2023. — APP

  • Minister reveals govt was under pressure to probe audio leaks.
  • "Crime cannot take the shield of privacy," Sanaullah says.
  • Khan terms leaks "serious breach of privacy", seeks accountability.

After Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan questioned powers of commission investigating audio leaks pertaining to judiciary, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah confirmed the judicial body will have authority to investigate those involved in taping and leaking the calls.

A day earlier, Khan had pointed towards a "deliberate omission" in the commission's Terms of Reference seeking accountability of those behind the surveillance.

“The commission, headed by Justice Qazi Faez Isa, will possess the power to probe into who is taping the audios and who is leaking them,” the minister said, speaking during Geo News programme ‘Naya Pakistan’ on Saturday.

The interior czar, during the show, spoke about Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif-led government’s decision to constitute a three-member commission to conduct an investigation into the audio leaks pertaining to the judiciary.

In an announcement made a day earlier, the government notified a high-powered judicial commission to be headed by senior puisne judge of Supreme Court Justice Qazi Faez Isa, while Balochistan High Court Chief Justice Naeem Akhtar Afghan and Islamabad High Court (IHC) CJ Aamer Farooq are named as members of the judicial body.

"The government was under pressure from the civil society and others to pursue inquiry on the matter of audio leaks," the minister said, adding that the government requires material to take the matter into the Supreme Judicial Council.

“Crime cannot take the shield of privacy,” Sanaullah said, warning against using privacy for committing crimes as revealed in the alleged audio leaks.

Meanwhile, Khan spoke about the commission's constitution insisting that its Terms of Reference "suffer from a deliberate omission" with no accountability of who is "behind the unlawful and unconstitutional surveillance."

Taking to his Twitter, the cricketer-turned-politician shared a strongly-worded tweet in this regard.

"They fail to take into account the issue that who is behind unlawful and unconstitutional surveillance of PM office and sitting judges of the Supreme Court. The Commission should be empowered to investigate who are these powerful and unknown elements who tap and record telephone conversation of citizens including high public functionaries," he tweeted.

Khan further termed the leaks as a "serious breach of privacy guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution."

The deposed prime minister, whose ouster from office took place via a no-confidence motion in April last year, sought accountability of all those involved in the entire process of the audio leaks.

"Not only those who illegally retrieve data through unlawful phone tapping and surveillance should be held accountable but those who through fabrication and tampering of different phone calls leak them on social media also need to be held accountable," Khan's tweet read.

The PTI chief, further sharing his views on the privacy breach, said that democracies governed by the rule of law propose that the state should not arbitrarily intrude into certain aspects of life.

"Right to privacy and dignity guaranteed under Article 14 are patently infringed whenever the state unlawfully surveils an individual," he wrote on Twitter.

The former premier also questioned the "secure phone line" at the PM office.

"Some of the recent leaked calls were made over what was supposed to be a secure phone line in the Prime Minister’s Office. Nevertheless, they unlawfully were tapped and fabricated/tampered with," he said, adding that the elements behind such "audacious tapping operate in a manner outside the command and even knowledge of the PM of Pakistan."

Khan went on to question the actors behind the leaks. "Who are these actors who are above the law and outside the command of even the prime minister of the country, and who resort to such illegal surveillance with impunity?" he tweeted, seeking identification of such elements by the commission.

Audio leaks to be probed

The commission will probe into audio leaks between the following:

  • Call between former Punjab chief minister and an advocate regarding a sitting judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
  • Call between former Punjab chief minister and an advocate about fixation of some cases before a particular SC bench.
  • Call between former Punjab chief minister and a sitting apex court judge.
  • Call between former chief justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar and a senior lawyer.
  • Call between a lawyer and a journalist on the outcome of a case before a particular SC bench.
  • Call between former prime minister Khan and his party colleague about their links in the apex court.
  • Call between mother-in-law of CJP Umar Ata Bandial and wife of a lawyer regarding SC cases and conversation about an un-constitutional rule.
  • Call between ex-CJP Nisar’s son Najam Saqib and his friend mentioning his father in a political role.