900,000 websites blocked over content, says PTA

Published September 27, 2019
The National Assembly Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecom has been informed that 900,000 URLs have been blocked for reasons such as carrying blasphemous and pornographic content and/or sentiments against the state, judiciary or the armed forces.  — AFP/File
The National Assembly Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecom has been informed that 900,000 URLs have been blocked for reasons such as carrying blasphemous and pornographic content and/or sentiments against the state, judiciary or the armed forces. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecom has been informed that 900,000 URLs have been blocked for reasons such as carrying blasphemous and pornographic content and/or sentiments against the state, judiciary or the armed forces.

The committee was told by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on Thursday that citizens could lodge complaints with the authority against unlawful content.

However, the officials informed the meeting that any criminal activity pertaining to IT or mobile telephony was dealt with by the Federal Investigation Agency and information regarding cybercrime was not available with the PTA.

Citizens can lodge complaints with PTA against unlawful content

They added there was no law in the country that barred the criminals or other people whose SIMs had been blocked, from obtaining new SIMs.

The committee meeting chaired by Ali Khan Jadoon also approved the draft National IT Board (NITB) bill, which was presented by federal Minister for IT and Telecom Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui.

Talking to media personnel after the meeting, Mr Siddiqui said: “Pakistan is already lagging behind the world in many areas, including the prevalence of IT. If we do not convert our official working to e-governance now, things will go bad in times to come.”

The minister added that “heavy use” of IT in government offices would help control corruption and mismanagement there.

The NITB is a department that’s attached to the Ministry of IT and Telecom and is mandated to undertake and coordinate e-government initiatives at the federal ministries/divisions and departments, provide consultancy and advisory services relating to acquiring and implementing IT solutions as well as building capacity of staff of these organisations.

After the bill is approved by parliament, the Ministry of IT and Telecom will carry out procurement speedily to remove shortfalls in ICT infrastructure across all federal ministries and divisions to be able to implement an e-office application.

The committee also reviewed the status of the IT park to be established in Islamabad that was conceived in 2008 and for which the Pakistan Software Export Board has obtained 33 acres of land on lease from the Capital Development Authority.

The park is being established with the technical support and loan from South Korea, but the project has been delayed by around two years due to an anonymous complaint lodged with the Economic Affairs Division (EAD) that one of the shortlisted companies was blacklisted in 1990 in Korea.

The committee was told by the officials of the IT ministry that there was “some truth” in the allegations, but the matter was resolved at a joint meeting of the EAD, the Korea Eximbank and the ministry, chaired by former finance minister Asad Umar in February.

IT Secretary Shoaib Siddiqui said the project would be completed by August 2022.

Published in Dawn, September 27th, 2019

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