Dawn: It’s reminiscent of George Orwell’s novel ‘1984’, but it’s real life – the US government’s extensive surveillance programme also applied to foreign citizens, and Pakistan is no exception.
As a result of the US government’s PRISM and Boundless Informant programme, nearly 13.5 billion pieces of “intelligence” were collected in Pakistan in just one month, including online information and telephone metadata, or information about the location, time, and duration of a phone call. In a country of 180 million, this could mean any number of people’s data could possibly have been checked any number of times.
Though the Foreign Office of Pakistan and the Pakistani Embassy in Washington DC have asked for an explanation from the US government, experts do not anticipate any change in the global monitoring programme.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the recent disclosure by former contractor, Edward Snowden, about the expansive US espionage against its own people have sparked calls for protest by Americans – but spying on other countries perceived to be ‘sources of terrorism’ have not evoked a similar passion amongst the American public.
Yet, activists in Pakistan working to protect digital rights and privacy have criticised the US government’s program through an online petition that has been signed by groups including Bolo Bhi and the Digital Rights Foundation. The government of Pakistan has also responded to the revelations through the Foreign Office, which has requested an explanation from the US embassy in Islamabad. Further, Ahmed Hotiana, the spokesperson for the Pakistani Embassy in Washington DC, stated that “We have taken up the matter with the US to obtain more details on the programme and await their response.” This indicates that the Pakistani government’s reaction has also been relatively muted.