NA committee approves controversial Cyber Crime Bill

Published: April 16, 2015


ISLAMABAD: National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Information Technology approved on Thursday a ‘controversial legislation’ on cyber terrorism and has referred it to Parliament for final approval.

The parliamentary panel adopted the Cyber Crimes Bill 2015 without considering objections as serious or merited.

A majority of members failed to turn up at the meeting, paving way for Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) legislators to surpass those critical of the legislation, including the media, internet service providers, NGOs and members of civil society.

State Minister for Information Technology Anusha Rehman told The Express Tribune it was incorrect to say that the legislation is non-transparent and non-consultative.

Safeguards have been ensured against any expected misuse, and there is no substance in the criticism on the legislation, she assured.

She further argued that once the legislation is passed, Pakistan would succeed to convince Google to launch — a local version of the YouTube.

Read: Cyber crime legislation: Independent agency proposed in final draft

Bolo Bhi Director Farieha Aziz said the draft bill in its current form will seriously impact internet users, the ICT industry, print and electronic media, academicians, researchers, the legal community and the educated youth as well as ordinary citizens of Pakistan.

MNA Talal Chaudhry said we should trust that our institutions will not misuse this new legislation, while Major (retd) Tahir Iqbal termed the bill a perfect legislation, saying one out 100 officers may misuse the law.

Meanwhile, arguing against freedom of speech and in favour of the legislation, Captain (retd) Muhammad Safdar said there is no concept of freedom, except the one that is defined in Quran and Sunnah.

Read: Legislative bungling: In a bill about cybercrime, MoIT inserts clauses legalising censorship

The only legislator not part of the PML-N at the committee meeting was Syed Raza Abedi of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement. He raised objections regarding the various sections of the proposed legislation. However, the PML-N members seem in a hurry to approve the draft of the bill.

On a lighter note, Abidi commented that such a mechanism for social media would help contain the ‘online brigade’ of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.



What the Bill entails

– In Sections 17 and 18, political criticism and political expression in the form of analysis, commentary, blogs and cartoons, caricatures, memes, has been criminalised.

– As per Section 19, any person who tests system security will be an offender

– As per section 20, ‘obscene’ or ‘immoral’ messages on Facebook, Twitter, and other social platforms, have been made offenses without defining obscenity or immorality; thus, giving sweeping powers to investigating agencies to implicate anyone on these charges.

– Section 20 also states posting of photographs of any person on Facebook or Instagram, without their permission is an offence.

– Under Section 21, sending an email or message without the recipient’s permission will become an offence.

– In Section 26, the definition of ISPs and telcos has been expanded to now include any place that offers the public access to internet, i.e. restaurants, malls, hotels, offices, airports, stations.

– Section 31 gives the government/PTA unfettered powers to block access or remove speech not only on the internet but transmitted through any device, limiting the media’s freedom and citizens’ right to expression.


Stepping on fundamental rights?

Fundamental principles of law, such as requiring intent, especially malicious intent, to be established for conviction, have not been followed; in fact, the requirement has been omitted from the modified version of this bill.

This is true even for offences such as Cyber Terrorism, which carries a penalty of 14 years imprisonment. There is grave danger of white-hat hackers, hobbyists, people who hack for academic purposes to identify security flaws in systems, or teenagers who for recreation (albeit wrongly) deface websites, could end up getting convicted as cyber terrorists.

Meanwhile, checks and balances on investigation agencies and its officers have been removed. For instance, requiring an investigation officer to obtain a warrant from court for search, seizure or arrest on the basis of a list of qualifications he/she was required to present before court, making clear reasons why the warrant should be issued, no longer exists.

Similarly, other safeguards that were previously built in, such as protection against self-incrimination and an accused’s right to know the charges against him/her, have also been omitted.

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Reader Comments (23)

  • Asad S
    Apr 16, 2015 - 7:12PM

    Wasn’t surprised to see MQM’s Abidi Factor’s name here. And the reason he gave for supporting the legislation is PTI???
    PTI might have given him a lot headache on twitter.Recommend

  • Talha Asad
    Apr 16, 2015 - 7:45PM

    I hate this bill. It should not be accepted. Will destroy the IT culture with fear.Recommend

  • Urban Legend
    Apr 16, 2015 - 8:38PM

    So out comments on the websites like this would become punishable by law! How insane and dictatorial! Recommend

  • Analysisunlimited
    Apr 16, 2015 - 9:25PM

    Agreed! About time that social mores of this society are being looked after. It seems everything in Pakistan is reactionary. Recommend

  • Apr 16, 2015 - 9:35PM

    I like it. It shall reduce the powers of the media which are based in PK.
    For media outside PK it has no effect.
    Also for the underground network it has no effect.
    So whatever they do not like in the Internic area shall end up coming from the underground area.
    It also shall assist in providing more training on Internet security inside Pakistan.


    Khawar Nehal Recommend

  • rt
    Apr 16, 2015 - 9:49PM

    Freedom of speech and expression are basic human rights, Gov’t is supposed to protect these rights. It would have been better off if the would have shut off the internet entirely, rather than choking it with their obscene laws.Recommend

  • amjad iqbal
    Apr 17, 2015 - 12:59AM

    Alcoholic brewries are closed in Pak?Prositution stopped?Police left bribery?Ah these inter and matriculate pass ministers can think till dis stupidity.Is youtube can’t be seen in Pak? PTA…hahaha.Recommend

  • Neutralist
    Apr 17, 2015 - 1:08AM

    A localised version of google and you-tube where one can only see the content which – according to the legislators of this dreconian law – may not cause any serious damage to overall security of the system. One can post/ upload only after passing the censorship tests set by dictorial regimes. If your commentaries and blogs irritate them, you’ll be spending rest of your life behind the bars. Recommend

  • Saher
    Apr 17, 2015 - 1:10AM

    and here i was missing Pakistan’s freedom of speech :( read sumwhere,
    “zuban pe muhar lagana tou koi baat nahi,
    Badal sakou ou badal dou merey khayaloun kou”

    sad times for Pakistan, i agree there should be legislation regarding cyber crimes, but making talking a crime via a bill is ridiculous. Recommend

  • MSH
    Apr 17, 2015 - 1:57AM

    Mr.Abidi categorically denied this reporting, express should correct this story to clear the air…:-)

    @Asad. SRecommend

  • Moron
    Apr 17, 2015 - 2:09AM

    @Talha Asad:
    You have committed a crimeRecommend

  • Abdul Haseeb
    Apr 17, 2015 - 8:36AM

    Democracy is the best revenge. Our current masters ( PML N) seem very impressed by their Chinese masters. The only positive thing left in Pakistan is online freedom.Recommend

  • Fahad
    Apr 17, 2015 - 9:50AM

    Youtube is already banned and now you are trying to seal the virtual mouth of public to critize your corruption and tyranny. If this is democracy, please return us the dictatorship. Recommend

  • Apr 17, 2015 - 9:58AM

    A bill with these conditions should never accepted! the day is not far when one more bill would be passed saying that on every product you sell whether it be software or t shirt you will have to pay additional tax on each product. We need to take steps now or just wait till out lives offline and online become the same.Recommend

  • M Ali Khan
    Apr 17, 2015 - 10:47AM

    I get the feeling PPP, MQM, and PTI will not do enough to stop this nonsensical bill from passing.

    Why does Pakistan ALWAYS learn from the worst in the world and NEVER from the best in the world?Recommend

  • sam
    Apr 17, 2015 - 12:28PM

    dear people, these politicians and bureaucrats and judges and generals ,hence entire backward and corrupt pakistani elite always use such tools to curb intellectual culture. they know they can not compete in open market so they put these blocks to level the field for them .like banning you tube .which is a resource of information for people and educational institutes.
    dear stupids of the govt, India is so far ahead in all fields and is widely respected in the world,and shamefully a monkey minster of uae just threatened pakistan and the weak pak govt shamefully kept quite. i can assure u if such a thing was said for india , indian would have called there ambassador back from uae. uae is puny country. and dubai is a criminal underworld and more over uae is actively involved in causing problems in balouchistan. Recommend

  • MNH
    Apr 17, 2015 - 12:46PM

    “Surprisingly”, some people are defending this law too. I am sure they will be defending a law that allows cutting hands of writers who write against their beloved parties.Recommend

  • Urban Legend
    Apr 17, 2015 - 2:35PM

    I want to see if any one in our holy parliament has a sense as to what the Govt is upto! If its approved with opposition either walking out or abstaining to vote, they would be equally responsible for the promulgation of this draconian law. What are doing to this country! Curb crimes and not curb the freedom!Recommend

  • John
    Apr 17, 2015 - 11:21PM

    so what about hate speech against IK valgur propoganda of pmln against pti this all is rubbish this is dictatorship not a single percent democracy i condemn this bill and i hope all pakistanis are united for free speech and pointing out the corruption or other wise fia will further ruin this Pakistan just to protect corrupt mafias pmln and their third class egosRecommend

  • Saddam
    Apr 18, 2015 - 10:58AM

    better ban internet then making it miserable and restricted… Is there any thing remain if we zipped our mouth..? Well , i condemn this…Recommend

  • Afia
    Apr 18, 2015 - 11:36AM

    So basically I not supporting this dirty tactic of the ruling party, is also a Cyber crime by this bill? Are they out of their mind?Recommend

  • Haseeb Khan
    Apr 18, 2015 - 7:23PM

    Y u cant criticize a politician ? is he that much Holy ? if a person can stand up and ask question and accountablity from Hazrat Umar R.A then why cannot from these morons ? who protray themselves as Angels.Recommend

  • M. Atif Bangash
    Apr 18, 2015 - 9:44PM

    If over 6 million Pakistanis on Facebook! Post anti-government or pro government post how cyber law will react to take action against all of them against each other? Because anyone can complaint, how many arrests and fines? smile emoticon .. We need to study the behavior of social media it create and then it became viral? How to control viral posts share and re-share by millions of users. And approvals of email messages? Wow ..My sympathies are with government and their fears.

    While Pakistan’s burgeoning young population is often termed a “time bomb”, for social networking website Facebook the mammoth number suggests significant growth potential.
    According to the latest statistics, over six million Pakistanis use Facebook, putting the country on number 26 in the list of countries where Facebook users are based.
    There are about 1.9M twitter users in Pakistan. Gov are planning to control internet and social media? Even west failed already. You can block 1 FB page or website, but in the next 15 minutes 1 million pages with the same content can be created. I think the Government should concentrate on some serious social problems.Recommend

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