Senators on Wednesday invited renewed scrutiny of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016, calling it "dangerous" and a "black law".

In a meeting held in Islamabad on the matter, Senator Farhatullah Babar said: "The bill is an attempt to curb citizens' freedom of speech rather than protect them. Banned militant outfits continue to operate freely on social media but restrictions are being placed on citizens raising relevant questions on online portals."

He also criticised the interior ministry's blanket order against 'those posting against the Army or against Pakistan's national interests'.

"Who decides which questions [raised on social media] are against the Army or national security? Is asking questions about 90 acres of land akin to defaming the Army?" he asked.

"The government is in fact restricting citizens' freedom of speech in the name of national security," he added.

"Mashal Khan was brutally murdered because someone created a fake profile in his name. The law should have been protecting him, it should be protecting citizens," said Senator Usman Kakar.

Kakar said that there should be no restrictions on social media; rather, its misuse should be prevented.

The senators also condemned the use of the cyber crime law in cases against journalists and said that social media should not be banned in the country.

Senator Aitazaz Ahsan said that he had lent support to the bill when he learnt that people were misusing social media to upload edited pictures of women for blackmailing purposes. However, he said, the law had not been used to this end as yet.

Minister of State Balighur Rehman told the Senate that in 2013, 1,312 complaints were registered under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act. He said the number of complaints has only grown ever since.

Providing the Senate details of these complaints, Rehman said that 9,075 complaints were registered in 2016 and 4,030 complaints had been registered in 2017 so far.

Out of the complaints registered in 2017, inquiries were made in reference to 559 complaints, First Investigation Reports were registered in 102 cases, while 83 arrests were made.

Rehman said that the government has no intention of using the act as a cover to make arrests.

By the end of the proceedings, Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani demanded that a report on the workings of the law be submitted to him within a month.

Opinion

Editorial

Kindness needed
20 Jun, 2024

Kindness needed

TODAY, on World Refugee Day, we pause to reflect on the many challenges faced by refugees across the globe. From...
Fitch’s budget note
20 Jun, 2024

Fitch’s budget note

PAKISTAN’S ongoing economic crisis is multifaceted. At one end, the government must pursue stabilisation policies...
Cruelty to animals
20 Jun, 2024

Cruelty to animals

TWO recent incidents illustrate the immense cruelty many in this country subject voiceless animals to. In the first...
Price bombs
Updated 18 Jun, 2024

Price bombs

It just wants to take the easy route and enjoy the ride for however long it is in power.
Palestine’s plight
Updated 17 Jun, 2024

Palestine’s plight

While the faithful across the world are celebrating with their families, thousands of Palestinian children have either been orphaned, or themselves been killed by the Israeli aggressors.
Profiting off denied visas
Updated 19 Jun, 2024

Profiting off denied visas

The staggering rejection rates underscore systemic biases in the largely non-transparent visa approval process.