ISLAMABAD: The Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) told the apex court on Wednesday that it tapped 6,856 phones across the country in the month of May.
In compliance of the court’s May 22 order, Deputy Attorney General Sajid Ilyas Bhatti (DAG) submitted a classified report before the three-judge bench, headed by Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, in the Supreme Court (SC) detailing the number of phones tapped in the past four months.
The bench revealed at least 6,523 phone numbers were tapped in the February, 6,819 in March, 6,742 in April and 6,856 in May after going through the classified report submitted.
Hearing a 19-year-old suo motu case, the top court had sought a reply from federal government regarding the law under which phone calls are tapped by intelligence agencies. It directed Bhatti to furnish a concise statement in this regard within three weeks.
The apex court summoned a responsible officer of ISI along with DAG to the chamber to decide if the proceedings of the case should be carried out in a chamber or not, keeping the sensitivity of the matter into consideration.
“We cannot keep this matter under the carpet as these are the secret rights of the people, which should not be violated,” Nisar said. “If the agencies are legally authorised to tap the phones then the court has no objection. However, if the agency officials are doing it without any legal authority then it is not right.”
The bench also asked Barrister Abdul Hafiz Pirzada, who was present in the courtroom, to assist into the matter to which Pirzada agreed.
After returning the report to DAG, he was asked by the SC to appear before the court along with the ISI officer in the next hearing.
During the last hearing, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) had told the court that it was tapping 5,594 phone numbers across the country.
In 1996, then chief justice Sajjad Ali Shah took notice of the recording of phone calls by the intelligence agencies after a spying device was found connected to his phone.
Later, former president (late) Farooq Ahmed Leghari’s counsel – during the Benazir Bhutto dismissal case proceedings –cited before the Supreme Court phone tapping of judges by the Benazir regime as a major justification for her government’s ouster.