'Don't indulge in such conversations that you have to fear call tapping,' quips Rana Sanaullah

PTI's Salman Akram Raja says no one would be safe if conversations are heard on basis of mere suspicion

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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
  • State has no right to pry into someone's house: Salman Akram Raja.
  • He says no one would be safe if calls are "listened" on  suspicion.
  • Govt's notification empowering ISI to tap calls challenged in LHC.

Prime Minister's Adviser on Political and Public Affairs Rana Sanaullah has remarked that people shouldn't engage in such controversial conversations in the first place that they have to fear their calls being tapped.

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

The senior politician's remarks come as the PM Shehbaz Sharif-led government has authorised 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.