SC instruction: Security agencies balk at sharing wiretapping data

Only FIA submits its reply to attorney general’s office

Hasnaat Malik April 11, 2015
Only FIA submits its reply to attorney general’s office. PHOTO COURTESY: REDIFF


Out of all security agencies put on notice by the Supreme Court, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) is only one to have submitted a reply about wiretapping records to the Attorney General of Pakistan’s office on Friday. The FIA made it clear that it was not engaged in any such activity.

Other agencies operating in the country are reluctant to furnish their call recording data, sources in the AGP office revealed to The Express Tribune. The three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, while hearing the 19-year-old suo motu case on March 18, directed the deputy attorney general (DAG) to furnish a concise statement within three weeks regarding the law, if any, under which the tapping of telephones is permitted.

“The names of departments/agencies (Intelligence Bureau, Inter-Services Intelligence, Military Intelligence and police, etc) who are actually tapping the telephones in the country. The number of telephones, which are actually being tapped by each department/agency,” says the order.

The bench, however, clarified that at this stage, the number of phones being tapped is only required to be furnished and the details of the telephone numbers and persons whose calls are being monitored need not be filed. “The needful should be done within three weeks and the matter shall be listed thereafter”, the order further said.

In compliance with the court’s order, AGP office wrote letters to various federal and provincial departments, seeking wiretapping data within the last 10 days.

The sources also revealed that the AGP office had also sought reports from provincial departments in this regard but only Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government has submitted its reply, wherein it had also refused to provide data because no notice was given to the provincial government by the court in this case.

In this present situation, a government official said, the AGP office will not file a concise statement until the agencies submit the required data, adding that if the bench will resume hearing of the case then the law officer may seek more time for compliance.

In 1996, then chief justice Sajjad Ali Shah had taken notice of the recording of phone calls by the intelligence agencies after a spying device was found connected to his phone.

Later, former president Farooq Ahmed Leghari’s counsel – during the Benazir Bhutto dismissal case proceedings – had cited before the Supreme Court phone tapping of judges by the Benazir regime as a major justification for her government’s ouster.

During the hearing of the case on March 18, Justice Saqib already observed that the court wants to know under which law spy agencies, civilian and others, are tapping phone calls. “This is a significant matter as it became the reason for the ouster of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in 1996,” the bench observed.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 11th, 2015.


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