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According to the bill, online criticism of religion, country, courts, and the armed forces are a few subjects which will invoke official intervention. ─ File
According to the bill, online criticism of religion, country, courts, and the armed forces are a few subjects which will invoke official intervention. ─ File

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication on Thursday approved the ‘The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2015’, a bill criticised for being controversial and draconian.

The bill is yet to be tabled before the National Assembly.

Today's approval came during a meeting of the committee which convened under the Chairmanship of MNA Captain (retd) Muhammad Safdar, and was attended by members of the IT committee and officials of the ministry.

According to the bill, criticism online of religion, the country, its courts, and the armed forces are among subjects which will invoke official intervention.

Minister of State for Information Technology Advocate Anusha Rehman Khan said that the bill is necessary to prevent unauthorised acts with respect to information systems, and provide for related offences, as well as mechanisms for their investigation, prosecution, trial and international cooperation.

She said the objective of the bill will is to effectively prevent cyber crime and contribute towards national security, while providing and enabling a secure environment for investment in information technology, e-commerce and e-payments systems.

“This bill shall also afford protection to citizens which has hitherto not been completely effective, exposing them to the unmitigated threats posed by cyber criminals both at home and abroad,” the bill said.

The bill also includes specific safeguards to balance against these intrusive and extensive procedural powers in order to protect the privacy of citizens and avoid abuse of the exercise of these powers, she added.

According to a member of the standing committee, although Article 19 of the 1973 Constitution has been viewed as a landmark for freedom of expression, the government has incorporated some controversial clauses in the new bill under the pretext of the national counter-terrorism strategy.

The government’s latest bill aimed at regulating Internet usage is tougher, curbs civil liberties and focuses more on moral aspects of Internet use than cybercrime itself, critics say.

Read more: New cybercrime bill tough on individuals’ rights, soft on crime

While Internet Service Providers Association Convener Wahajus Siraj described the bill as “draconian”, Pakistan Software Houses Association Board Member Afaque Ahmad termed it “wrong and senseless”.

“In its current form, the bill is a disaster. It was not made by an expert draftsman with adequate knowledge of the nuances of language, a comprehension of technicalities and technologies, someone who understands international laws. This is a hard combination to find,” Mr Ahmad said.

Mr Ahmad spent three years drafting what he calls “the original bill” alongside a group of IT experts and lawyers. He said that the government had sidelined all the relevant stakeholders from the process of drafting the law.

Earlier this month, however, Anusha Rahman explained that the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill 2015 had been sent to the National Assembly Standing Committee with proposed amendments after being extensively scrutinised by a special review committee.

The minister explained that the special review committee was constituted on the direction of the National Assembly Standing Committee on IT and Telecom and consisted of technical and legal experts as well as MNAs.

She said the committee had analysed the bill clause by clause in order to make it more compatible with the National Action Plan (NAP) to counter terrorism and extremism.

Dawn editorial: Cybercrime bill controversy

Scratch through the surface of the Bill, and there is much that is controversial.

Critics say that a government-led sub-committee put in time to modify the draft that had originally been chiselled by the IT ministry and industry stakeholders and activists — the latter now holding that they were excluded from the process of finalising the draft.

What now stands to be tabled in the National Assembly, they say, is a loosely worded piece of legal drafting that not just betrays a poor grasp of the technical aspects of digital communications and the internet, but also contains several deeply problematic clauses that are open to misinterpretation and may be used as crutches for censorship and the suppression of views a government finds unpalatable.

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.


Comments (27) Closed



faizan Apr 16, 2015 06:01pm

this good for nothing IT minister, who doesnt come on tv for she would be questioned, is out there deciding our fate.

Humans Apr 16, 2015 06:01pm

Hope the bill will focus on print and electronic media as well.

zx Apr 16, 2015 06:22pm

Anusha Rehman Khans qualifications & professional experience is totally irrelevant to handle this position. It would be nice to have someone competent with the understanding and vision required for the IT ministry.

Haseeb Ahmad Ayazi Apr 16, 2015 07:09pm

Anusha Rehman and Capt Safdar both are irrelevant to this field. This is must to be viewed by the Professionals also.

Hassan Parvez Apr 16, 2015 07:10pm

Every citizen of Pakistan is free to express his views and opinion regarding any subject. Our constitution gives this right. The IT Minister and Mr. Sharif's son in law have no qualification to recommend any law relating to IT. Does the "Friendly Relations" of countries includes Saudi Arabia and UAE who are threatening our nation for not joining their illegal adventure in Yemen.

Ahmed USA Apr 16, 2015 07:13pm

Good step by the government... need of the hour...

Riaz Apr 16, 2015 07:14pm

A good step; was need of the hour !!!!!

Ali Sadiq Apr 16, 2015 08:49pm

Ethics, grace, morality; few things that a specific party followers need to learn (pti to be specific), be it the hard way and at the cost of freedom of speech. Criticizing is one thing but derogating comments, views and even uploading photoshoped stuff should never be allowed. Running fake accounts, spreading fake documents, lying, disinformation and spreading rumors must be punishable acts as in every modern society. Even Islam doesnt allow this.

I dare those educated fascists living abroad and criticising pak govt ever say a word about their own govts in their countries who are most active on social media spreading hatred and acting like analysts. Take a look at twitter or facebook and you will know which one party is crying most over this bill.

Anwar Ahmad Apr 16, 2015 09:51pm

This essentially puts a lid on little freedom of speech we had in our land of the pure.

Faisal Gondal Apr 16, 2015 09:57pm

Good move by the government...

Nadia Hanif Apr 16, 2015 09:59pm

tomorrow i will draft the defence strategy :P

yahya Apr 16, 2015 10:33pm

contradictory to constitution,fundamental rights& freedoms provided under it ....s.Court is last hope

MRS Apr 16, 2015 11:01pm

Thank you IT Minister for giving new meaning to cyber crimes. Definition of cyber crime "Expressing opinion not liked by Military, Courts and Mulla's are called cyber crime"

Ali Apr 17, 2015 12:25am

Although its a good move by the govt.But it doesn't mean to draft a bill which is drafted witout consultation of stakeholders.This draft has recommanded very heavy punishment and also curbing people's freedom.we demand to reconsider this draft taking all stakeholders on the board.

Ali Apr 17, 2015 12:26am

Although its a good move by the govt.But it doesn't mean to draft a bill which is drafted witout consultation of stakeholders.This draft has recommanded very heavy punishment and also curbing people's freedom.we demand to reconsider this draft taking all stakeholders on the board.

Ali Apr 17, 2015 12:28am

Although its a good move by the govt.But it doesn't mean to draft a bill which is drafted witout consultation of stakeholders.This draft has recommanded very heavy punishment and also curbing people's freedom.we demand to reconsider this draft taking all stakeholders on the board.

Nasir Apr 17, 2015 12:51am

Very soon these comments on DAWN's website criticizing the government will also be punishable. Speak your hearts out till it lasts :P

azi Apr 17, 2015 12:55am

Reminds me of the Silence of the Lambs.....Everybody should have the right to criticize anyone you cant put scotch tape over our mouths and views.

Malik Apr 17, 2015 01:21am

@Ahmed USA Do you have the same law back there in US?

Azeem Apr 17, 2015 01:31am

NS government follow their big brothers "SAUDIES" & stop free expression rights. Pl do amendment in Constitution of Pakistan in this regard.

Nasir Jadran Apr 17, 2015 02:55am

I would like more well versed analysis of the new Cyber Bill by a reporter who has thoroughly researched it. Point by point mention exactly what constitutes to be "vague" and how cyber criminals will go scot-free? Which clauses are draconian in terms of civil liberties? A thorough analysis must be presented by the newspapers at least they owe to the public.

This article has much reporting to do not the analysis. Perhaps someone in Dawn can reflect and do justice to inform people.

Absar Apr 17, 2015 03:04am

I will miss the humorous memes by NFP. Ahhhhh!

gupta Apr 17, 2015 05:38am

Good thing for Pakistan society but this can be challenged by US and UN as grossly fundamental/communal bill against freedom of speech.

Khurshid Apr 17, 2015 10:23am

Conniving government officials are trying to censor freedom of expression. If these people have their way, they can convert Pakistan into a monarchy or dictatorship.... very depressing !!

Irfan Apr 17, 2015 05:00pm

@Ali Sadiq This bill states that Electronic and Print media is excluded from application of this bill. They can humiliate each and every person living in this country. They can mimic but social media cannot use MEMES. for your general knowledge: "Criticizing Government is NOT a crime"

Asif Apr 17, 2015 06:20pm

@Hassan Parvez Rightly said. Pakistan has always been ruled by illiterates, not people of qualification. Those who have the money buy the posts to govern from.

Asif Apr 17, 2015 06:23pm

@Anwar Ahmad Land of the pure as envisioned by Qaida-E-Azam ceased to exist when Gen. Zia came to power.