Cyber Crime Bill 2015: More power to Pakistan Telecommunication Authority

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: Photo By News Lens Pakistan /

Lahore: The proposed Cyber Crime Bill 2015 is under strong criticism by human right activists, politicians, IT specialists and common people considering it a violation of Article 19 of the Constitution of Pakistan that provides freedom of speech and expression to the people of Pakistan and includes freedom of press (subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law to save interest/integrity of Islam and National Security of Pakistan).

The draft of 44 pages of the new Cyber Crime bill 2015 is approved by the Standing Committee on Information Technology and the National Assembly of Pakistan.

According to this bill, hacking, political criticism or expression in the form of analysis, commentary, blogs, cartoons, caricature and memes will be considered a criminal offense. This bill also forbids sending emails or messages and posting any person’s picture on Facebook or Instagram without permission considering it a serious criminal offense.

Director of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan I. A. Rehman while talking to the News Lens Pakistan said “This is the first step to limit civil society’s strong voice against the misdeeds of politicians, state organs and others. How it can be implemented with its true spirit in such an illiterate society?”

“To me Cybercrime bill is defective and I am having problems with each line and section because it is nothing but to control public rights. It is against the constitution of Pakistan and people must not surrender their rights to such flawed bills”, he further added while talking to the News Lens Pakistan.

An organization working for Internet freedom, privacy and gender rights Bolo Bhi has demanded  the government make public this draft .Bolo Bhi has already filed a petition in  Islamabad High Court in 2014 to challenge the authority of Inter-Ministerial Committee for the Evaluation of Websites because that committee was practicing to block content of their own choice.

Director of Bolo Bhi Fareeha Aziz told News Lens Pakistan,” the committee was banned in March 2015 that’s why this move is being done so swiftly without considering its repercussions.”

“Section 10 to 22 of this bill will decline the citizens’ rights to express. Earlier they completely banned YouTube instead of blocking selective material. This indicated that Pakistan Telecommunication Authority will block complete websites,” she adds while talking to the News Lens Pakistan.

Article 31 of this new law provides Pakistan Telecommunication Authority with the legal framework for content management that is being done without any legal structure adding power to PTA to block anything as it states:

“PTA will have power to issue directions for removal or blocking of access of any intelligence through any information system, if considered necessary to safeguard the interest/integrity and glory of Islam, National security of Pakistan, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality in relation to contempt of court, commission of or incitement to an offense”.

Journalist, historian and Head of Beacon house National University, Dr. Mehdi Hassan, showed his concern while talking to the News Lens Pakistan. ”This is the maximum scope of blocking any material on internet. Only one opposition leader was present in the cabinet committee meeting along with 14 members of the government and it is ridiculous that Head of committee Capt ® Muhammad Safdar approved the bill and sent it to National Assembly of Pakistan.”

“Bill must be sent back to committee and all stake holders including media persons must be given a chance to give feedback and make it fruitful for society”, he further added while talking to the News lens Pakistan.
Minister of State for Information Technology Anusha Rehman tells News Lens Pakistan, “This bill is to counter terrorism and is not violating any article of the Constitution of Pakistan. The issues raised in Cyber Crime Bill are not new. Fair Trial Act describes only the legal ways of interception.”

Executive member of Pakistan Software Houses Association Syed Ahmed told News Lens Pakistan, “Current bill is incapable of countering terrorism and is also against the Budapest Convention”.

“If this bill gets approved from NA, companies that own Facebook, Twitter and other social websites will not be bound to facilitate government regarding any anti state information”, he tells News Lens Pakistan, “Up to 14 years imprisonment has been suggested in this bill. I fear a hacker who breaks into protected systems and networks to test and asses the security, hobbyists, our youth that is involved in political or any other debates would be in danger of being convicted as cyber terrorists”.

Member of Cabinet Committee for IT MQM MNA Ali Raza Abidi and PTI MNA Dr. Ari Alvi raised their voices on the floor of the house asking the speaker to send the bill back to committee for reviewing its flawed sections as this bill is against the basic rights of the people of Pakistan.

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