The government of Pakistan has empowered the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency to intercept and trace any phone call or message in the country.

This unprecedented power, officially granted under Section 54 of the Pakistan Telecommunications Act 1996, marks the expansion of surveillance capabilities for the country’s top intelligence agency.

The Federal Cabinet Decision, vide SRO 1005(I)2024 dated 8 July 2024, prohibits ISI officers of grade 18 or above from intercepting calls and messages through any telecommunication system as well as tracing communications. Gives authority.

The Ministry of IT and Telecom issued a notification stressing that the move is in the interest of national security and is aimed at preventing crime.

“In exercise of the powers under Article 54, the Federal Government is pleased to authorize from time to time the designation of officers below grade 18, in the interest of national security and in view of the apprehension of any offence. Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to intercept calls and messages or trace calls through any telecommunication system as contemplated under Section 54 of the Act,” the notification read.

It also states that the government shall prioritize and prioritize telecommunication systems over any licensee for the protection of national defense or security against foreign threats.

“The Federal Government is happy to allow the officers in the interest of national security and in view of any fear of crime. […] shall be designated by the ISI from time to time to intercept calls and messages or to trace calls through any communication system.”

According to 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 sided with its supporters amid shrinking space for traditional media. Used effectively to communicate.

Earlier in May, Prime Minister Shehbaz approved a draft amendment to the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016, proposing the establishment of a Digital Rights Protection Authority.

Media reports indicate that the government is also deploying a national firewall at various Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to control social media content, with filters capable of blocking unwanted content.

Elon Musk-owned Platform X has been blocked since February, and the government recently defended the action during a hearing in the Sindh High Court challenging the ban.

Reacting to the latest authorization to the ISI, PTI leader Umar Ayub Khan warned that the government’s actions could backfire. He said, “The government and allies should know that the same actions will be taken against their leaders after they are out of power. When they are affected by the actions they are taking now, they are going round the courts. Must have been.”

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