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Pakistan authorizes spy agency to monitor phone calls

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Pakistan’s government has legally empowered the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency to intercept telephone calls and messages. The decision has drawn significant criticism from the opposition and social media.

The powerful military, which has a history of influencing political outcomes in Pakistan, has further solidified its control through this new legislation. Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar informed parliament that the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunications received a notification about this change on July 8.

“The federal government in the interest of national security and in the apprehension of any offense, is pleased to authorize officers … to intercept calls and messages or to trace calls through any telecom system,” said the notice, seen by Reuters.

Tarar assured that the measure is intended to combat criminal and terrorist activities and that misuse of the law would face repercussions. “Anyone who misuses the law will face action,” he stated, emphasizing that the government would prevent any infringement on individuals’ privacy.

The opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, led by jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan, opposed the move in parliament. Omar Ayub Khan, a leader of PTI, argued that the agency could use its powers against government lawmakers and pledged to challenge the decision in court.

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The Inter-Services Public Relations Wing (ISPR) did not respond to Reuters’ request for comments. Farieha Aziz from rights advocacy group Bolo Bhi questioned on X, “Is what is legal also constitutional or right?”

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