The principal secretary to the Prime Minister of Pakistan has informed the Islamabad High Court (IHC) about the legal framework for recording phone calls between private citizens. Dr. Syed Tauqir Shah stated that the Investigation for Fair Trial Act, 2013, provides a robust legal foundation for recording phone calls using modern techniques and devices.
This revelation comes in response to a petition filed by Najamus Saqib, son of former Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, who faced allegations of soliciting kickbacks in exchange for a political ticket.
The principal secretary emphasized that the Fair Trial Act, 2013 was enacted to address the gaps in the existing legal framework, specifically regulating advanced investigative techniques.
These techniques include covert surveillance, human intelligence, property interference, wiretapping, and communication interception. While the act seeks to prevent scheduled offenses, it also ensures that law enforcement and other agencies obtain evidence in a lawful manner, thereby facilitating a fair trial.
PMO’s Non-Interference in Intelligence Agencies
Dr. Tauqir Shah’s response clarified the relationship between the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and intelligence agencies. He highlighted that the PMO does not interfere with the daily workings of these agencies due to the national interest.
The intelligence agencies operate under the Constitution and the law to serve the public interest. While the court inquired about which intelligence agency possesses the capability to record and surveil telecommunications, the reply focused on the agencies’ pivotal role in safeguarding the country against internal and external threats. The principal secretary maintained that delving into operational details would not be in the best interest of national security.
Safeguarding Phone Call Recordings and Audio Leaks Investigation
Dr. Tauqir Shah’s response underlined the need for safeguards to protect the confidentiality of recorded phone calls and prevent leaks or misuse for extraneous purposes. The Telegraph Act, 1885, provides mechanisms for possessing licensed telegraphs and intercepting messages with government permission.
The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016, offers a framework for maintaining the confidentiality of data or records obtained during investigations. In response to questions about holding parties responsible for audio leaks, the principal secretary noted that the federal government is aware of the leaked conversations. It has established a high-power commission, comprising senior judges, to investigate the authenticity of the leaked content.
The case, involving the audio leaks and summons from the Federal Investigation Agency and a parliamentary committee, has been set for a hearing on December 11, following the suspension of the initial notices for the petitioners.