Pakistan’s telecommunication authority has installed a system for legal phone interception and the system was at the disposal of the government and its agencies, the chairman of the country’s top telecom body told a court here.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) Chairman, Major-General Hafeezur Rehman made the statements during the hearing of a case at the Islamabad High Court on Thursday, the Dawn newspaper reported.

Responding to a question by Justice Babar Sattar, who was heading the IHC bench, about whether there was a mechanism for legal interception, Rehman said that the top telecom body had installed a system, but it was at the disposal of the federal government and its agencies.

However, he added that all provisions of the licence for telecom operators have been enforced, except the provision of legal interception.

“Phone hacking has become so easy that if you leave your mobile phone somewhere and go to the washroom, I can connect and hack it before you return, Rehman told the court.

Rehman said the Pegasus spyware developed by an Israeli surveillance firm, the NSO Group, can hack a phone within a minute.

On being asked if audio recording or phone tapping was being done illegally, the counsel for the telecom authority replied that legal interception does not pertain to cellular services, as it is the domain of the PTA, the government and relevant agencies, the report said.

Justice Sattar pointed out that in the case of legal interception, telecom operators share the individuals’ locations with law enforcement agencies, while under an agreement with consumers, the operators are obligated to keep their personal information confidential.

The court also asked if telecom operators could share an individual’s personal information with any agency without the government’s permission. The PTA lawyer Irfan Qadir told the court that the regulator could take action against such cellular companies for breach of privacy.

The court asked the PTA about the law under which they shared information relating to a consumer with the relevant agencies and directed the telecom operators to submit a detailed report by the next hearing date.

The court was hearing a case on the petitions of former chief justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar’s son Mian Najam-us-Saqib and jailed former prime minister Imran Khan’s wife Bushra Bibi, about their audio conversation leaks, according to the report.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mar 16 2024 | 12:37 AM IST

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