No Authorization Granted to Intelligence Agencies for Audio Surveillance, Informs IHC
Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan informed the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday that the government had not authorized any intelligence agency to engage in the surveillance of audio conversations.
This disclosure took place during the hearing of a petition filed by Bushra Bibi, the spouse of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who sought action against a leaked conversation allegedly involving her and PTI leader Latif Khosa.
On December 6, the former first lady approached the IHC, contending that the leaked recording violated the right to dignity and privacy guaranteed by Article 14 of the Constitution. The petition named the principal secretary to the prime minister and secretaries of defense and interior as respondents.
During the previous hearing, IHC Justice Babar Sattar had requested reports from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), and other relevant authorities regarding the audio leak.
He also directed the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) to submit a report and response on how a leaked private conversation could be transmitted on TV channels.
At the beginning of the latest hearing, AGP Awan presented a report prepared by the Prime Minister’s Office, asserting, “The PMO is clear that the ISI, FIA, and IB are not authorized to record any conversations.” Awan highlighted that the FIA was actively working to identify the party responsible for recording the call, emphasizing the agency’s need for access to relevant internet protocol addresses.
“The AGP asserted that if any agency is recording conversations, it is doing so illegally.” Awan mentioned that the ISI stressed the importance of obtaining reports from social media platforms to advance the investigation.
Justice Sattar noted that the PMO report indicated the ISI’s inability to trace the source of the leaked audio and questioned the agency’s rationale for filing a report through the Ministry of Defense. The AGP responded that the agency should have submitted the report through the PMO.
Pemra’s counsel informed the court that TV channels were prohibited from broadcasting private audio leaks, prompting Justice Sattar to inquire about the actions taken by Pemra. The lawyer explained that Pemra had issued directives against airing such conversations and referred the matter to the authority’s Council of Complaints.
Justice Sattar questioned the effectiveness of Pemra as a regulator and sought clarification on whether Pemra was distancing itself from the matter by referring it to the Council of Complaints.
Khosa stated that TV channels had broadcast the audio leak throughout the day, referring to it as a disgrace. Justice Sattar emphasized the importance of balancing freedom of expression and privacy and instructed the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority to submit a detailed report on the matter.
The judge also instructed the FIA and others to refile their responses and warned that the court would appoint local and international advisers if the government failed to provide information on the matter.
Justice Sattar stressed the gravity of the issue and assured that it would be addressed. The hearing was subsequently adjourned.
Regarding the leaked conversation, in the surfaced clip on social media, a voice purported to be Bibi’s tells her lawyer that Imran’s sisters were unhappy with her for hiring Khosa. Bibi allegedly informed her sisters-in-law that she would assign all delayed cases to Khosa and mentioned that Imran’s sister claimed Khosa misbehaved with her. The voice also suggested that Imran’s sisters were displeased with her statement expressing concern that Imran Khan could be poisoned in jail. During the conversation, Khosa stated that he did not misbehave with the sisters and only asked them to let him handle the case without interference.