A view of the National Assembly hall.—File Photo

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s National Assembly passed a controversial legislative bill on Thursday which, while authorising the state to intercept private communications in order to catch terrorists, may also pose a threat to people’s privacy.

The government argues that the ‘Investigation for Fair Trial Act, 2012’, which had already been approved by the NA Standing Committee on Law and Justice last week,  will allow for investigations by law-enforcement agencies and security agencies “by modern techniques and devices” in cases related to terrorism.

The bill, presented in the assembly by Law Minister Farooq H Naek, was approved after incorporating amendments proposed by the Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).

The bill became controversial because certain quarters felt it would pose a threat to people’s privacy and civil liberties. The legislation allows security agencies to tap people’s phone calls and intercept other private communications in order to catch terrorists.

But the government claims that “existing laws neither comprehensively provide for nor specifically regulate use of advanced and modern investigative techniques such as covert surveillance and human intelligence, property interference, wire tapping and communication interception that are used extensively in other countries, including the US, the UK and India”.

Earlier, the PML-N and the MQM had objected to the bill and had proposed a number of amendments in the draft.

The MQM had proposed 31 amendments to the draft whereas the PML-N had reportedly proposed 33 amendments to it.

Moreover, the MQM had argued that the bill could be misused by security and intelligence agencies for political purposes.

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