The State of Surveillance in Pakistan

Pakistan's telecommunication authorities are accused of mass surveillance, allegedly violating human rights and privacy, leading to a decline in citizens' freedoms and democratic backsliding.

The State of Surveillance in Pakistan
Photo Source: Pexel/PhotoMIX Company, May 11th, 2016

July 3rd 2024

Eleni Patlaka

Pakistan Researcher,

Global Human Rights Defence

 

 

Recent appeals to the Islamabad High Court revealed surveillance practices in Pakistan.

 

It was found that the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) forced several telecommunication companies to deploy mass surveillance systems of citizens, which allowed simultaneous monitoring of telephone calls of up to 4 million people (Dawn, 2024). For example, during the February 8th polls, numerous telephone conversations between former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his wife were leaked on social media (Zaki Abbas, 2024). It is alleged that this was done under the pretext of maintaining the security of the country and finding and monitoring criminals, terrorist groups and foreign spies (Dawn, 2024).

 

However, this practice poses obstacles to the observance and respect of human rights. In particular, the right to privacy is violated under Article 14 of the Constitution (Dawn, 2024). As described by IHC's Justice Babar Sattar, it restricts freedoms, as personal data, such as audiovisual material, is repeatedly breached without a legal warrant and then circulated to third-party anonymous agencies or the media (Dawn, 2024).

 

The above problem highlights the issue of the deterioration of citizens' freedoms and rights, as well as the lack of transparency and accountability of the government, which contributes to democratic backsliding (Zaki Abbas, 2024).

Sources and further reading:

Abbas, Zaki. “The Surveillance System Keeping Tabs on Millions.” DAWN.COM, 2 July 2024,www.dawn.com/news/1843299/the-surveillance-system-keeping-tabs-on-millions. Accessed 3 July 2024.

Dawn. “Orwellian State.” DAWN.COM, 3 July 2024, www.dawn.com/news/1843525.  Accessed 3 July 2024.