Despite a broad consensus among stakeholders, the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill – which is very close to becoming a law – could not be tabled.
An outside consultant, in his first ever meeting on the subject, objected to specific articles of the draft at the stakeholders meeting with the National Assembly’s Select Committee – an ad hoc committee created to inquire into and report upon a particular matter – on Friday.
Sources familiar with matter told The Express Tribune that an outside consultant – who was invited in the meeting by a legislator – raised objections to eight articles in the industry’s redraft of Prevention of Electronic Crimes Ordinance.
The articles he objected to, according to sources, had already been settled in previous meetings – which consumed millions of rupees and hundreds of hours of deliberation on the subject. The consultant proposed to redraft the proposed bill saying he will complete it in four pages for it does not require 40 pages.
“Opposing a draft, when all stakeholders have built consensus, and that, too, by someone who is attending his first meeting on the subject does not make sense,” said a source, who attended the meeting. This is not about merit, he said, and rather about scoring political points.
Explaining, he said the chairman belongs to one political party while the legislator, who invited the aforesaid consultant, belongs to another political party – the latter wants to make sure his party is also given some credit.
What had been delaying the draft in the past, sources said was the lack of consensus between two main stakeholders: Federal Investigation Agency and Pakistan Software Houses Association.
The two parties, however, have a greater consensus on the industry’s redraft of ordinance than ever before; sources said.
Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunications called a meeting on November 29 – their fifth meeting on the subject. The meeting, sources said, was successful as all stakeholders were able to build the much-needed consensus over the proposed draft.
The meeting was attended by legal teams of FIA, Pakistan Telecommunications Authority and members of P@SHA, Law Division, internet service providers’ association and members of intelligence agencies. Stakeholders, according to sources, were convinced on merit and stage was set for the bill to be tabled.
“It was expected the bill will be tabled today [Friday],” sources said. However, these fresh objections will cause further delay to the process – which has been under the select committee’s consideration for four years now.
Some new face shows up in every meeting, a source said, and raise objection on articles already settled and discussed in past meetings – which have taken hundreds of hours of deliberation, not to mention millions spent on the same.
Even some members, Marvi Memon and Sherry Rehman included, of the select committee have left but the PECO bill is still gathering dust, the source said. Even if these objections are readdressed, a new face will show up in the next meeting with new objections, he said.
The chairman of the committee should put his mind to the matter and finalise the bill as soon as possible. But majority of members do not come to the meeting fully prepared. Even the legislator, who had problems with the industry’s redraft, does not give proper time to the meetings. If that attitude continues, the bill cannot become a law, the source said.
The chairman, according to sources, has now asked that consultant to submit his objections in writing. However, sources said if the consultant presents a four-page draft – as he claimed – he is more likely to copy the old PECO, which gave unprecedented powers to the FIA.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 1st, 2012.