Pakistan flag
Pakistan's ISI spy agency sought access to data from 'landing sites' passing through Karachi, privacy group claims. [Representation Pic]Reuters File

A report has claimed that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) tried to create the 'world's most powerful surveillance system' by illegally tapping into undersea Internet cables passing through Karachi port, according to a report by UK-based Privacy International.

Had ISI's attempt been successful, the country would have gained the power to carry out surveillance activities not only in Pakistan but also on Internet users in India, North America, Europe, Africa and Southeast Asia, the report revealed.

This way Pakistan's digital espionage capacity would have been on par with that of the United States of America, the report noted. ISI also reportedly tried to tap into Internet optic cables from three of the four "landing sites" that pass through the country's port city of Karachi.

"These cables are going to route data through various countries and regions," Matthew Rice, an advocacy officer for Privacy International told AFP."Some will go from Europe to Africa and all the way to South-east Asia. From my reading, that's an explicit attempt to look at what's going on."

In its bid to increase its surveillance activities, ISI also hired several intermediary companies that provided it with the spying tools. Some of its 'interception equipment providers include Atis (Germany), Ericsson (Sweden), Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) / Trovicor and Huawei (China).

Privacy International, which is dedicated to exposing governments and companies carrying out surveillance on public, said that Pakistan's ISI was abusing the surveillance system. 

"Pakistan's intelligence agencies have abused their communications surveillance powers, including by spying on opposition politicians and Supreme Court judges. Widespread Internet monitoring and censorship has also been used to target journalists, lawyers and activists," the report noted.

The 55-page report noted that the data collection sought in the ISI's proposal "would rival some of the world's most powerful surveillance programmes" including those of US and Britain.

Pakistan is yet to comment on the disclosure made by the group.

Also read
Quick Links