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ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly (NA) passed the controversial Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill (PECB) 2015 on Thursday after the Senate's unanimous adoption of the bill – with 50 amendments – earlier in July.

The bill will be signed into law by President Mamnoon Hussain. (Full text of the bill below)

IT Minister Anusha Rehman: "Criticism regarding the bill is baseless as proposed amendments have been included. Non-governmental organisations and civil society representatives are opposing the bill due to a certain agenda."

MQM MNA Ali Raza Abidi: "The government was under pressure to pass this bill using any force necessary."

PPP MNA Naveed Qamar: "The bill will be misused by authorities and government departments."

The 'draconian' bill has been heavily criticised by the IT industry, civil society organisations and rights activists for curbing human rights and giving overreaching powers to law enforcement agencies.

Focus of criticism

  1. Critics say the bill is too harsh, with punishments that do not fit crimes

  2. The bill's language leaves it open to abuse by LEAs, agencies, the government

  3. Recommendations of stakeholders were ignored in the formulation of the law

  4. It restricts freedom of expression and access to information

  5. The offences are too numerous, overlap with other existing laws

  6. The wording of the bill leaves many clauses open to interpretation

  7. The bill specifically can be misused to target journalists’ sources and whistleblowers

  8. Criteria for surveillance is even more open-ended than in the Fair Trial Act 2013

  9. Mechanisms for implementation are missing from this bill

  10. The bill has introduced clauses on cyberterrorism, which is not the subject of the bill

  11. The authority designated under the new law should have been independent of the executive

  12. The authority has been given sweeping powers to blocking and destroy online material, without a court order

  13. It does not adequately differentiate cyber crime from cyber terrorism and cyber warfare


Salient features of the new bill

  • Up to three years imprisonment, Rs1 million fine or both for unauthorised access to critical infrastructure information system or data

  • The government may cooperate with any foreign government, foreign or international agency, organisation or 24x7 network for investigation or proceedings relating to an offence or for collecting evidence

  • The government may forward any information to any foreign government, 24x7 network, foreign or international agency or organisation any information obtained from its own investigation if the disclosure assists their investigations

  • Up to seven years, Rs10 million fine or both for interference with critical infrastructure information system or data with dishonest intention

  • Up to seven years, Rs10 million fine or both for glorification of an offence relating to terrorism, any person convicted of a crime relating to terrorism or proscribed individuals or groups. Glorification is explained as “depiction of any form of praise or celebration in a desirable manner”

  • Up to six months imprisonment, Rs50 thousand or both for producing, making, generating, adapting, exporting, supplying, offering to supply or importing a device for use in an offence

  • Up to three years imprisonment, Rs5 million fine or both for obtaining, selling, possessing, transmitting or using another person’s identity information without authorisation

  • If your identity information is used without authorisation, you may apply to the authorities to secure, destroy or prevent transmission of your information


What Dawn columnists have to say

BABAR SATTAR

In its present form PECB will criminalise conduct that shouldn’t be criminalised, equip investigation agencies and PTA with overbroad and unguided powers that will be susceptible to abuse, and chill free speech without any corresponding augmentation of the right to privacy or dignity.

Laws are drafted not on the assumption that they will be tools in the hands of angels, but by assuming abuse and guarding against it. So is PECB an unmitigated disaster or a mini-disaster? (read in full)


FARIEHA AZIZ

What will be unleashed upon us through Section 34 is a regime that will decide on whim, based on what affects personal reputations and fits personal barometers of morality, what we should or should not say, and what we should or should not have access to. Either entire websites will be shut down over one piece of content without ever knowing when access to them will be restored: Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Instagram have all been blocked at some point or the other in Pakistan. Or, in the zest to try and gain the ability to block, nefarious designs to break through encrypted protocols will be pursued. (read in full)


IA REHMAN

The whole affair has revealed fault lines that should cause a great deal of anxiety to the people.

Pakistan’s lack of expertise in preparing and assessing legislative proposals, which would maintain a balance between the state’s thirst for absolute powers and the citizens’ inviolable rights, is bound to undermine progress towards an equitable rule of law. (read in full)


Editorial

Both China and Saudi Arabia have taken technological and institutional steps to censor the internet that go beyond law and now extend to societal norms, business practices and other areas. Similarly in Pakistan, we may see censorship extend beyond the government’s desire to control information to negatively impact society — eg increased instances of online blasphemy accusations used — as seen in the real world — not only to censor information on the internet, but also to target minority groups and ordinary citizens.

This is not a hypothetical situation but one grounded in the fact that multiple cases of blasphemy charges based on internet content have already occurred in the last two years. The PECB has no answer to the impact of the internet censorship it will bring into law.

It is unfortunate that a lack of internet penetration and thereby an understanding of the internet among the general population and leaders leave the country vulnerable to new policies that once passed will be hard to reverse and damaging to the very people who approved them. (read in full)


PECB with 50 amendments


Comments (93) Closed



Cain Aug 11, 2016 01:14pm

here come the lawsuits....

Asif Shabbir Aug 11, 2016 01:22pm

In spite of banning terrorist outfits, government is making efforts to curb the human rights of people of Pakistan. This draconian law will be misused by law enforcement agencies soon. Then government will cry fool that things are not in their control. This is reprehensible and deplorable situation.

Abdullah Aug 11, 2016 01:23pm

Just for information ... There's a nation - of more than one and half a billion - enduring the hardest of censorship, laws and regulations regarding media and communications. Be them political, cultural, security, religious or socio-economical, whatever the agendas are behind such strict policies. The outcomes of these policies are in front of the whole world; they're world's leader in producing consumer market products, they own top military and intelligence and have most latest and powerful technologies and systems, fine education and health care facilities are enjoyed by the people and undoubtedly they're going to become the greatest economy of the world in a few years to come. So in the Peoples Republic of China, despite of some uprising and riots, majority has accepted living within strict but well defined and well administrated bounds and this has ultimately turned out be more productive than that adoption of "uncontrolled freedom of expression" in other countries has occurred.

khurram4444@hotmail.com Aug 11, 2016 01:27pm

Is this a democracy?

Pakistani Aug 11, 2016 01:28pm

'Misusing internet' would have been enough wording for the whole Cyber Crime Bill. Also, it would have been a world record by PMLN for the shortest worded piece of legislation ever in the history.

Irfan-Sydney Aug 11, 2016 01:29pm

Most absurd laws I have ever seen about internet. Hang on a second . Have I broken the new cyber law . Am I in trouble ? Oh my God! What have I done ?

Sammy Aug 11, 2016 01:33pm

Misusing internet? How specifically written...

Concerned Citizen Aug 11, 2016 01:38pm

"making changes in a wireless set or cell phone"..... So if i change the background of my cell phone I will be prosecuted???

Asif Shabbir Aug 11, 2016 01:44pm

Instead of making amendment to reform the criminal justice system for speedy trials of terrorists keeping in mind the sun set clause of military courts, it is elusive that government hastily approved this draconian law despite reservation of civil society.

Timeto stopthis Aug 11, 2016 01:45pm

Someone needs to understand what democracy really means as these are certainly not the rules for a democratic country.

Naeem Raza Aug 11, 2016 01:46pm

"Up to three year imprisonment and fine of up to Rs1 million rupees for making changes in a wireless set or a cell phone"

According to this, so if I upgrade the software on my cell phone or install an app, I have committed a cybercrime

Timeto stopthis Aug 11, 2016 01:47pm

Birds of the same feather flock together. This explains Pakistans friendship with China which has equally regressive laws in place. Get used to it as they are your best friends and will influence your policies. .

Timeto stopthis Aug 11, 2016 01:47pm

Better to just block the internet completely and go back to the dark ages.

khi91 Aug 11, 2016 01:49pm

I will challenge the bill in Supreme Court.

kaushal Aug 11, 2016 01:50pm

After Passing of Cyber Law in India there was huge public protest for "Net-neutrality" , taking into consideration the Govt of India made the law more liberal and rational... it is power of democracy in India.

khan Aug 11, 2016 01:54pm

does wasting time on internet comes under '' misusing internet law'

Faisal Aug 11, 2016 02:01pm

If I share this post should it be also considered as 'misusing Internet'?

KS Aug 11, 2016 02:02pm

so I wont get any of those irritating marketing text messages now....? if so, who will be prosecuted and how?

Waseem Aug 11, 2016 02:05pm

How do you define making changes in a wireless set? People find ways to unlock phone so that they can use it with any carrier. Is it now considered a change that may fine you 1 million ?

Waqas Ahmed Aug 11, 2016 02:05pm

I am in fear that if i comment on Dawn by my nickname they can take me to the court that i try to misuse the Internet and cheater and so many things :)

Ali Abbas Aug 11, 2016 02:05pm

This is one of the most rubbish and vague piece of legislation ever made in the history of mankind.. Absolutely pathetic. Am I misusing the internet by criticizing the bill? :O

Waqas Ahmed Aug 11, 2016 02:06pm

It means sending someone to request to play candy-crush can take me to the jail.

IPS Aug 11, 2016 02:11pm

Free speech should have limitations. Is it justifiable to disrespect a respectable citizen ? If not then then there should be someone to check it.

Rafeeq Aug 11, 2016 02:13pm

I was looking for a footnote at the end stating that "this article is a satire" but never found it. This bill has been recklessly worded and it has the potential to be abused to lock up countless innocents in the years to come. The lawmakers could have at least googled cyber crime bills passed into law within democracies instead of focusing on dictatorships before cooking this up!

Truth Prevails Aug 11, 2016 02:14pm

@Timeto stopthis Blocking the internet won't take you to the dark ages but VOTING for the ignorant will take you to the DARK AGES, once and for all

Waseem Aug 11, 2016 02:16pm

@Naeem Raza I was thinking the same that its so vague law. But if you read the actual section 16 of the law then it is more specific and gives example such as modification of the phone identification information.

Ijaz Aug 11, 2016 02:16pm

The authoritarian tendency of the PML(N) evidenced here.

Patriotic Aug 11, 2016 02:17pm

123 a new bill is passed. It was as easy as cheese. wow

Hafeez Aug 11, 2016 02:18pm

"Up to three year imprisonment and fine of up to Rs1 million rupees for making changes in a wireless set or a cell phone"...this is very important piece that pertains to making nay change in the radio frequency transceiver hardware and firmware of the cell phone...This is aimed to prevent use of cell phone for espionage and IEDs!

xmaestro Aug 11, 2016 02:20pm

"making changes in a wireless set or cell phone". Oh boy! Will i be prosecuted for rooting my android?

Kashmiri in London Aug 11, 2016 02:21pm

Being an IP professional my self I can clearly see this bill is not written or consulted with IT Professionals. They should have studied documents from other countries that are much advanced in this sector to learn how they written it.

irfan Aug 11, 2016 02:30pm

Guys I am sure you all will be enjoying PML (N) regime . It happens when you vote blindly.

Let's have a big applause for PML (N) , for sending us back to dark ages .

abubakar Aug 11, 2016 02:35pm

"Editorial Both China and Saudi Arabia have taken technological and institutional steps to censor the internet that go beyond law and now extend to societal norms, business practices and other areas."

In this Modern Time you are compairing with Saudia And China..???

Bravo...Push the country back to 1000 years...

Kailash Aug 11, 2016 02:39pm

If implemented seriously, next week half the citizens will be in jail.

Pratap Aug 11, 2016 02:41pm

In the meanwhile India is busy availing wi-fi cities to its people. Just saying.

Moona Aug 11, 2016 02:44pm

So what's wrong with this?

Pakistani Aug 11, 2016 02:44pm

@Hafeez So you mean to say, people who use mobile phones for espionage or IEDs will have to get an NOC from the concerned ministries.

Pakistani Aug 11, 2016 02:48pm

@Kailash hahahahaha....good one

Hafeez Aug 11, 2016 02:49pm

@Pakistani The given section of bill is not about setting conditions for NoC...it is about prosecuting those who are caught tempering with the RF transceiver hardware and firmware...a killer does not need any NoC to do his crime, but state need law to prosecute him...

Maria khan Aug 11, 2016 02:49pm

Will the person sending spyware or Trojan horse to your computer or cell phone be prosecuted?

Pakistani Aug 11, 2016 03:04pm

@Hafeez We have Anti Terrorism legislation in place and anyone who is involved in any nefarious act is charged under that law regardless if found using or tampering mobile phones etc. The agencies monitor GSM transmissions and do not have to wait for the tampering of mobile phones to happen before they can arrest someone. Also, all mobile users have had their finger prints taken by the service providers with CNIC verification etc.

Timeto stopthis Aug 11, 2016 03:15pm

@khurram4444@hotmail.com Actually, you have answered your own question.

Aaqib Aug 11, 2016 03:16pm

What a Joke ! There is no bill against looting public money and building palaces in foriegn countries . But there is a bill for misusing Internet ! Poor Pakistanis !

Zk Aug 11, 2016 03:21pm

Democracy is the best revenge? We can see that

Hafeez Aug 11, 2016 03:21pm

@Pakistani if someone use the tampered phone to commit a crime, now he can/will be prosecuted for two crimes: tampering the phone being one of them. "The agencies monitor GSM transmissions and do not have to wait for the tampering of mobile phones to happen before they can arrest someone". How agencies will find out tampered phone when it was not yet tampered. I did not know they have invented such an anti-causal detection and tracking system!

Sajed Syed Aug 11, 2016 03:25pm

@IPS , A respectable citizen does not need cyber law to be respected. If I call a saint by bad name, I will lose respect and not the saint. I will be avoided and looked down up. When will we learn that a saint does not need our approval. Look at Obama, the epithet of authority in the USA/World. He is hit left,right and center every day by the Republicans (Canada Free Press online site is an example). Where is Obama? His approval rating is soaring, more the propaganda, more he gets approval from the silent majority, the normal human beings. Badnaam hoga to kya Naam nahi hoga? Shall I translate this granny's saying?

yaqut khan Aug 11, 2016 03:25pm

It's good .there is lot of baseless anti pakistan and anti islam propaganda going on internet.cybercrime bill is the only way to deal it.

El Cid Aug 11, 2016 03:33pm

The bill is designed to spy, suppress, oppress, corrupt, exploit.

Mona Naveed Aug 11, 2016 03:43pm

Be afraid. Very afraid. All thinking people, especially women..!

DJ Aug 11, 2016 03:44pm

West wants you to be in stoneage

Razi Aug 11, 2016 03:46pm

It was imminent. Control of information is power that nobody wants to lose.

M. Siddique Aug 11, 2016 03:50pm

Somehow it feels as if the bill is passed to appease and assist foreign countries to nail down Pakistanis whom they don't like or just suspect anything they wish. So Pakistanis won't be an independent and free anymore.

Rizwan Aug 11, 2016 03:53pm

Are we living in North Korea ?

PakBH Aug 11, 2016 03:54pm

whom will help this law? can we get rid of all terrorisim and lawlessness in our country? Can we get rid of corruption or find corrupt minds also sitting in parliament? many questions , no answer

Changez_Khan Aug 11, 2016 03:55pm

Good move. Pakistan needs a bill like this.

SARMAD Aug 11, 2016 03:55pm

Commenting after the legislation is passed: This is a great initiative by NA legislatives and written in very concrete and vivid manner. We must appreciate the IT expertise and competitive edge posessed by our lawmakers. Hats Off Anusha Rahman!

irfan Aug 11, 2016 04:01pm

No Bill against Corruption , Honor Killing , incompetent Politicians ruling the country . There is nothing wrong with having a Cyber Crime Bill but a Cyber Crime bill with these Terms is laughable.

Action speak louder than words and this Bill has truly shown the mindset of the Pakistani Politics .

World is taking one step ahead and Pakistan is always on Reverse Gear .

Sameer Aug 11, 2016 04:03pm

The government essentially wants to transform the public in to cattle...milk them via taxes, force them to graze...and when Eid comes, eat their meat.

God tells me to speak up when I see something wrong...you may tear my tongue, but you will never silence the word of God...that even Pharaoh couldn't escape the punishment that had been prepared for him.

Akil Akhtar Aug 11, 2016 04:07pm

There are more restrictions in the west about what can and can't be said....

KT Aug 11, 2016 04:24pm

What about Pakistani who live out of Pakistan is this bill on them or it limits till physical boundary of Pakistan

srinivas appidi Aug 11, 2016 04:25pm

Go back in to deluxe stone age Pakistan, Good Luck!

Sajed Syed Aug 11, 2016 04:26pm

Master stroke by the highly enlightened Parliamentarians to take Pakistani youths back by thousands steps (proverbial -one step forward, two steps backward?).

This was the only source for them to compare and contrast many aspects of their life, style, faith, prospects and opportunities. Kudos MNAs,

Mansoor Banglani Aug 11, 2016 04:27pm

I will sell out my cellphone and laptop, and also deactivate my Facebook account.

DJ Aug 11, 2016 04:59pm

Deactivated my Facebook. So many wasted years none can give me back

ahmad Aug 11, 2016 05:23pm

does making a social media cell to put trends on twitter come under this bill as a crime? Oh God, m I in trouble?

Alik Aug 11, 2016 05:40pm

For legislators is this a language problem or they really don't understand such open ended phrases. Why to re-invent the wheel, just copy this act from some other better country and make minor amendments to address the specific local issues

Angry Pitbull Aug 11, 2016 05:58pm

In simple words current law says ...

"Don't use internet"

Angry Pitbull Aug 11, 2016 06:09pm

Thank God I am living in a beautiful Democratic country called INDIA...

Usman Aug 11, 2016 06:09pm

All the criticism points mention are generic..

Which clause from mentioned 'salient features' is so bad? And the punishments mentioned are the Max sentences and Not the absolute ones.. leaving it to the discretion of judges based on magnitude of offence.

Some of these clauses were absolutely required!

Alba Aug 11, 2016 06:26pm

First off the maximum sentences do not necessarily have to be imposed. Judges have leeway in sentencing and they decide the sentence. I understand journalistic concerns but free speech is not free. The drawback is that the majority of Pakistanis support the notion of being safe from terrorism above their personal freedom. That concept is an historic one.

Freeman Aug 11, 2016 06:41pm

What is this "critical infrastructure information system" and why is it so sacred and who will define it?

Harris Aug 11, 2016 06:50pm

People are getting fool in the name of democracy and they are showing their faces of dictatorship.

Lahori Kid Aug 11, 2016 06:53pm

Have these legislators ever used the internet? Took part in any online activity? I mean, there are just so many flaws in this bill. Take this as an example:

"Whoever with dishonest intention gains unauthorized access to any information system or data shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three months or with fine which may extend to fifty thousand rupees or with both"

Like who's going to define dishonesty?

Noon-league zindabad!

patti Aug 11, 2016 06:55pm

This is all just to threat the opposition during Tehreek e Ehtisab march.

Omer Aug 11, 2016 07:02pm

Very good bill. Keep it up.

The End is Near Aug 11, 2016 07:15pm

The Cyber Crime bill they have passed and the punishments they have Set, will unfortunately only be applied to the poor people of Pakistan, the rich and influentials will Not be affected.

Khurram Aug 11, 2016 07:51pm

Oops I have browsed internet today, have I misused internet. Save me please ...

FMS Aug 11, 2016 07:59pm

Dear Readers, please dont cringe now. These lawmakers were elected by you. What were you thinking when you voted for them?

a Aug 11, 2016 08:45pm

@Kailash half? I think almost all internet users

Iqbal Khan Aug 11, 2016 09:00pm

How a common man/woman be guided of this complex law and and its repercussions. It needs a probation period of exemption where at least through print and electronic media people are being taught simply and regularly to correct their use of Internet and its applications.

Iqbal Khan Aug 11, 2016 09:04pm

@Abdullah that's not because of their restricted laws but most probably the interests of their leaders and state are common. A common man always look at their leaders.

The Truth Aug 11, 2016 09:05pm

Another Brainless move by PMLN.....

Nasir Aug 11, 2016 09:11pm

Saudi Arabia and China, great countries as a role model for human rights, but wait why you don't follow North Korea?. Policies of this govt making me think of Zardari as a nice man.

J. Ali Aug 11, 2016 09:18pm

A Military dictator Pervez Musharaf seems like an angel who allowed over fifty TV channels and complete freedom of information compare to democratically elected P/M Nawaz Sharif who is acting like North Korean dictator. This PECB bill will be used to crush opponents and the news media will only be able to say what Government want them to say. No one will be safe, best example is when MQM workers and public were charged under terrorist act for being present at a gathering where Altaf Hussain spoke over the phone.

flipflop Aug 11, 2016 09:23pm

"Up to three years imprisonment, Rs5 million fine or both for obtaining, selling, possessing, transmitting or using another person’s identity information without authorisation" this is is very important and I think people just don't understand how important it is to protect ones personal information. As for other features it does somewhat limit the freedom of speech and access to information so some amendments should be made in the coming months.

Parvez Aug 11, 2016 11:44pm

Can this be challenged in a court of Law ?

Sameer Aug 12, 2016 12:10am

@flipflop People know not to accept anything presented to them on a silver platter...

All amendments and archaic egregious laws in the country's history were made under the aegis of upholding religion or protecting the country that infringed on civil liberties. This is authoritarianism in a plastic shroud of democracy...the public sees right through.

nisar Aug 12, 2016 02:46am

I think this is very step by the government; we need to make sure no one is mis-using internet by; stealing someone's identity or using it to malign someone reputation; hacking into any institution, or for pornography, or posting someone's pictures without consent. All this is good...

white noise Aug 12, 2016 03:00am

are we headed the Turkey's way now?

sure, pass the cybercrime bill while actual crime on street is flourishing faster than flora in the the Amazon !!!

btw, where is anti-honour killing bill? oh right, that one is no fun is it?

Farouq Omaro Aug 12, 2016 05:05am

Pakistan, Turkey, Malaysia all heading the same way.

Muzaffaroklahoma Aug 12, 2016 05:20am

Well,u guys elected this amazing N govt.Now lose ur liberties,one step at a time .

batooni Aug 12, 2016 11:43am

Welcome to Black era so called greaaaat leadership of PMLN..

Gemini Aug 12, 2016 04:13pm

Clearly it means that the government is more concerned about what we "say" rather than what the criminals on the streets and in the government do ! Funny isn't it ? Those who talk will be taken to task and the law will be implemented on them very swiftly while the blood sucking thugs who are plundering Pakistan are left loose to rape, murder, burn people and properties and loot as much as possible without the law even "talking" about them ! Isn't it Ironic ?