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No end to phone tapping of women MNAs

By Khawar Ghumman

ISLAMABAD: Despite repeated complaints by the women parliamentarians about their phone tapping, the government remains least bothered to resolve the matter and has even refused to listen to their concerns.

A couple of months back, MNA Bushra Gohar of the ANP registered a complaint with the speaker office against tapping of her phone by law enforcement agencies. Now Nosheen Saeed of the PML-Q has also raised a similar issue but to no avail.

Talking to Dawn, Ms Gohar said she first highlighted the issue during a meeting of the house standing committee on interior some six weeks back. But the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority chairman out-rightly refused the charges, she added.

However, when the attention of the interior secretary and representatives of law enforcement agencies present in the meeting was drawn to the matter, they remained tight lipped, she added. “Their body language showed they were in the picture of this activity,” Ms Gohar recalled.

She said after receiving no response from the standing committee, she sent an application to Speaker National Assembly Dr Fehmida Mirza, asking under what law, policy and whose directives the telephones of parliamentarians were being recorded.

“It has been a good number of weeks since then but there is no response,” Ms Gohar said.

When contacted, the speaker office confirmed that an application had been received from Ms Gohar on the subject.When asked how she knew that her phone was being tapped, Ms Gohar said: “Initially, I was told by a few friends and later I confirmed through various sources that it was being done.” First of all, it’s simple breach of a parliamentarian’s privilege and secondly no law of the land allows such a practice, said the outspoken parliamentarian, adding: “If this exercise is serving some national interest I have no objection but at least I should be informed in advance about this case.”

It is strange that Interior Minister Rehman Malik had, on the floor of the house, said neither he had issued any such directive nor his ministry was doing this, said Ms Gohar. “But the fact of the matter is that it is happening,” she added.

During the current session of the National Assembly, when Ms Nosheen Saeed wanted to speak on a point of order on the issue, her voice was drowned out in the fight between the treasury and opposition benches as the debate on law and order situation in Karachi continued.

Talking to Dawn, Ms Saeed said she was not the only MNA whose telephone was being tapped but many other parliamentarians were also victims of intrusion into their private lives. The interesting part of the story is that, according to my information more than one agencies are involved in this activity, she said. “The other day, when I wanted to take up the issue, nobody, including the interior minister who was present in the house, paid any attention to it,” said Ms Saeed.

In response to a question, she said earlier it used to be the sitting prime minister who could order phone tapping of any individual. Now a law enforcement agency needs to have court order before recording somebody’s phone for certain objective. But here in this country, it seems free for all, she added.

Source: Dawn