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    Pakistan grants intel agency ISI permission to monitor all phone calls, messages in country


    The Pakistan government has granted the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency the authority to intercept and trace any phone call or message in the country.
    This unprecedented power, officially sanctioned under Section 54 of the Pakistan Telecommunication Act 1996, marks an expansion of surveillance capabilities for the country’s top intelligence agency.
    The federal cabinet’s decision, communicated through SRO 1005(I)2024 dated July 8, 2024, empowers ISI officers of grade 18 or higher to intercept calls and messages as well as trace communications via any telecommunication system.
    The ministry of IT and telecom issued the notification, emphasizing that the move is in the interest of national security and aimed at preventing offenses.
    “In exercise of the powers conferred under Section 54… the federal government in the interest of national security and in the apprehension of any offence, is pleased to authorise the officers not below the rank of grade 18 to be nominated from time to time by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to intercept calls and messages or to trace calls through any telecommunication system as envisaged under Section 54 of the Act,” the notification read.

    It also states that the government will prioritise and have precedence in the telecommunications system over any licensee to safeguard national defence or security against foreign threats.
    “The federal government in the interest of national security and in the apprehension of any offence is pleased to authorise the officers […] to be nominated from time to time by ISI to intercept calls and messages or to trace calls through any communication system,” the notification further read.
    As per the sources, the decision appears to be part of the government’s broader efforts to tighten control over social media platforms, which the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has effectively used to communicate with its supporters amid shrinking traditional media space.
    Earlier in May, PM Shehbaz approved a draft to amend the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016, suggesting the establishment of a Digital Rights Protection Authority.
    Media reports indicate that the government is also installing a national firewall on various internet service providers (ISPs) to control social media content, with filters capable of blocking unwanted material.
    The Elon Musk-owned platform X has been blocked since February, and the government recently defended this action during a Sindh high court hearing of a petition challenging the ban.
    Reacting to the latest authorisation to ISI, PTI leader Omar Ayub Khan warned that the government’s actions could backfire. “The government and allies should know that the same actions would be used against their leaders once out of power. They will be roaming around the courts when hit by the measures they are instituting now,” he said.





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