Another leaked audio

Published January 6, 2022

A LEAKED audio of a conversation between Maryam Nawaz and Pervaiz Rashid from 2016 reveals how the PML-N, like other parties, spends much time analysing journalists, countering supposed media biases and mulling ways to get good coverage.

Journalist organisations have rightly criticised the PML-N leaders for their reprehensible harangue against certain TV analysts. However, the leaked clip also confirms how intelligence agencies in Pakistan continue to illegally record telephone calls of politicians and others to damage their public reputation if and when needed.

Read more: PFUJ demands apology from PML-N leaders for abusing journalists

The act of phone-tapping is illegal to the extent that it infringes upon individuals’ rights to privacy, free expression, liberty and life. This is not acceptable in a democracy. In many countries call-tapping is prohibited unless authorised by courts for collecting evidence or detecting criminal and subversive activity.

The purpose of eavesdropping in Pakistan is to control and influence politicians, judges and others, while the agencies having the capability of eavesdropping always operate outside the scope of the law. The alleged tapping of the phones of judges, political leaders, and military and civil officials was one of the reasons the Supreme Court had given in its majority decision upholding the 1997 dismissal of the second Benazir Bhutto government. The court had held that phone-tapping violated the constitutionally protected right to privacy. It also referred to Article 9 that guarantees the right to life, holding that “life” included the right to be protected from encroachment on privacy.

Thus, the order observed, eavesdropping techniques not only infringed on the right to privacy but also on the right to life and liberty. The order is clear in that the agencies should seek the court’s prior permission for tapping phone calls. However, frequent audio leaks show that this illegal practice of call-tapping carries on despite the court order, and that governments have lost their control over agencies, which continue to surveil even those in power. It is time politicians come together to put their foot down to end unauthorised eavesdropping.

Published in Dawn, January 6th, 2022

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