Federal government authorized ISI to intercept, trace calls & texts

Federal government authorized ISI

Federal government authorized ISI to intercept, trace calls & texts

The Federal government of Pakistan has officially authorized the Pakistan Intelligence Agency (ISI) to intercept and trace calls and messages. ISI refers to Inter-Servies Intelligence which is a crucial spy agency of Pakistan.

According to the government, it took this step to investigate possible crimes against national security. The Interior Ministry of Pakistan issued an official notification after the federal cabinet’s approval on July 8, 2024.

Notification issued by the Interior Ministry to grant authority to ISI officers to trace calls

It allowed ISI-certified officers to trace calls by Section 54 of the Telecommunication (Reorganization) Act, 1996. The authorized ISI officers by the Pakistani government may not be lower than grade 18.

Hence, these officers have permission to intercept conversations and messages or to trace calls of any individual or persons through any telecommunication infrastructure.

ISI officers above grade 18 can trace calls/messages of any citizen

However, this move comes as part of the Shehbaz Sharif government’s efforts to impose tougher social media laws citing concerns about national security. He earlier banned the widely used social media networking platform X in Pakistan.

He approved a proposal to change the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016 in May 2024. This amendment called for Digital Rights Protection Authority’s establishment to have control over social media users.

Moreover, the government is also establishing a nationwide firewall on various internet service providers (ISPs) with filters. Hence, it can prevent undesirable content from reaching a larger audience.

This firewall will also examine the information coming from various internet protocols addressed. It will serve two purposes: identify the locations of propaganda material originating and blockage or restrict coverage of identified accounts.

Pakistani government has begun installing firewalls to restrict access to social media users

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According to some government officials, their main focus will be locating the source of propaganda material to eliminate it through the national firewall.

However, all strict measures of the federal government regarding social media and the recent move where it authorized ISI to trace calls of any citizen have raised widespread concerns.

Several Pakistanis and international organizations consider this move a major blow to the fundamental democratic right of “freedom of speech.” On the other hand, the government considers it a mandatory step for national security.

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