Starting anew: Govt to hold fresh consultations on cybercrime bill

IT ministry to prepare draft operating procedures to improve consultative process

Azam Khan October 31, 2015

ISLAMABAD: Ignoring IT ministry’s claim that the cybercrime bill was drafted after proper consultations, the federal government has decided to conduct the entire process anew.

The decision of fresh consultations came after criticism by rights activists on the ‘controversial and hasty’ process of putting the bill together.

The current bill prepared by the Ministry of Information Technology would not be tabled in parliament without first holding ‘meaningful’ consultations with stakeholders, as per the decision taken during a recent meeting chaired by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar.

“The meeting has decided to bring all relevant ministries and stakeholders together for a consultative process under a national platform,” a participant of the meeting told The Express Tribune. “The IT ministry would prepare draft operating procedures to improve the present consultative process.”

The consultative body would consolidate the work already done by different ministries and prepare its recommendations. The body would also be responsible for developing the future roadmap in the sector.

The source said the entire process on the cybercrime legislation was being reversed for a second time, “despite getting approval from a parliamentary panel, headed by the prime minister’s son-in-law MNA Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar”.

Earlier, the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill 2015 was sent back to the National Assembly’s standing committee on IT for further consultation by former NA speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, but the body did not comply with the ruling.

As per the minutes of the Dar-led meeting, the minister emphasised the need for close coordination and collaboration between all IT-related departments for better planning.

Stakeholders’ grievances

Nighat Dad, founder of the Digital Rights Foundation, said that when the standing committee had approved the final draft in September, the panel’s chairman had not shared copies of the draft with the other committee members.

Asad Jamal, lawyer and consultant for the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, lamented the existence of ‘sleeping provisions’ in the bill, saying they did not actively address the issues at hand.

Saroop Ijaz, country director of the Human Rights Watch, said the bill criminalised free speech. “The idea of the state assuming more power will result in turning Pakistan into a silenced garrison, which will provide no justice to the people of Pakistan.”

Published in The Express Tribune, November 1st, 2015.

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