Cyber Crime Bill And a Prime Minister on Sale

April 13th, 2016 observed an unusually unique milestone in Pakistan’s legislation history.
The Lower House of the Parliament, the National Assembly, approved the much hyped and overly controversial Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill, 2015, popularly known as Cyber Crime Bill, with a simple majority. A total of only 30 members, 9% of the National Assembly strength, were present in the 342-member house. More than 90% of the legislators were absent at the time when the bill about to affect lives of 200 million Pakistanis was being rushed into approval.

The Cyber Crime Bill, aimed at controlling cyber crimes and ensuring national security besides safeguarding dignity, life and property of the citizens has been vastly criticized by various quarters. The critics refer to it as a Draconian Bill and base their case at its vague language, weak & easily exploitable structure, harsh punishments and suspected compromises over civil liberties. While any legislation by the Government is often subject to negative reaction by the Opposition, in this case the civil society has been the first to raise a red flag over the bill draft proposed early last year.

Internet Service Providers Association of Pakistan (ISPAK), Bolo Bhi, Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@sha), Center for Discussions and Solutions (CDS) were amongst the first to voice their concern against the proposed draft of the Cyber Crime Bill and launched a joint action committee against the proposed legislation.

Pasha Cyber Crime Bill

The Committee opined that the draft Bill in its current form would strongly impact the Internet users, ICT industry, print and electronic media, academicians, researchers, the legal community and ordinary citizens particularly educated youth of Pakistan.

After extreme resentment and opposition offered by even the neutral quarters of the stake holders from the Industry, the bill draft became a soccer ball among various committees of the Parliament. The final draft of the bill presented in the National Assembly yesterday, though, made it to the floor without anyone from the sanctioned committee members having seen the copy of it.

Main features of the Cyber Crime Bill, which is soon to become a law if Senate does not shoot it down, include:

  • Up to five year imprisonment, PKR 10 million fine or both for hate speech, or trying to create disputes and spread hatred on the basis of religion or sectarianism.
  • Up to five year imprisonment, PKR 5 million fine or both for transferring or copying of sensitive basic information.
  • Up to PKR 50 thousand fine for sending messages irritating to others or for marketing purposes. If the crime is repeated, the punishment would be three months imprisonment and a fine of up to PKR 1 million rupees.
  • Up to three year imprisonment and a fine of up to PKR 0.5 million for creating a website for negative purposes.
  • Up to one year imprisonment or a fine of up to PKR 1 million for forcing an individual for immoral activity, or publishing an individual’s picture without consent, sending obscene messages or unnecessary cyber interference.
  • Up to seven year imprisonment, a fine of PKR 10 million or both for interfering in sensitive data information systems.
  • Three month imprisonment or a PKR 50 thousand fine or both for accessing unauthorised data.
  • Three year imprisonment and a fine of up to PKR 5 million for obtaining information about an individual’s identification, selling the information or retaining it with self.
  • Up to three year imprisonment and a fine of up to PKR 0.5 million for issuing a sim card in an unauthorised manner.
  • Up to three year imprisonment and fine of up to PKR 1 million rupees for making changes in a wireless set or a cell phone.
  • Up to three year imprisonment and a fine of up to PKR 1 million for spreading misinformation about an individual.

Even if the glaring oppressive clauses could be ignored, Industry representatives have argued that the bill would harm business as well.

Quoting Dawn’s articulate commentary over the issue:

Consider, for instance, Section 31, the most jarring of several examples.

Under this section, the government could block access to any website “in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality….” Who is to decide what undermines the integrity of Pakistan, or its relations with other states?

Who exactly are the “friendly foreign states”, and where would countries with which Pakistan has fluctuating ties such as the US be placed? Critics also refer to several other technically flawed and vague definitions that pose threats to ordinary citizens.

Twitter users from Pakistan had a field day after the news broke.

Cyber Crime Bill

Cyber Crime Bill

Cyber Crime Bill

Cyber Crime BillWhile Pakistanis abroad had another take to the matter.

Cyber Crime Bill

Is “Freedom of Speech” going to be the newest chapter in our History books?

Let’s keep our fingers crossed, and hope not!

Just in case, you haven’t yet learnt of it and may not know of it after PECB is made into a law, “useless” Pakistani PM has been put onto ebay for sale against £ 99.00. As of right now, the bid has risen to a decent £ 66,200.00.

PM Nawaz for sale

Ebay doesn’t get involved in logistics on Pakistani soil. Who knows what our dear PM went to London for?

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