Time to take the internet cafes by the scruff of neck


The Punjab government has put the internet café bill on ice due to brewing intricacies and lack of consultation with the concerned quarters. Officially bill is called “Net Café Regulations Act (Punjab Cyber and Gaming Café Regulations Act) 2012.”
Bill is likely to be tabled in the Punjab Assembly after its final approval from the Punjab Cabinet and is expected to be imposed after the budget is announced in June.
Sources in the CM Secretariat told Pakistan Today that the bill was all set to be finalised and regularised on December 11, 2011 but it got stuck as cabinet members could not agree on the conflicting points in terms of its parameters, method and modus operandi.
Sources said Law Department of Punjab prepared the bill to regularise approximately 3000 internet cafes in Lahore. Earlier, the Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif had ordered to regularise internet café after the public concerns related to internet cafes were thoroughly discussed in a prominent talk show of a television channel.
The regularisation bill for internet cafes was heavily focused on the removal of private cabins from internet cafes. In this regard, all existing cabins will be removed and the new net cafe owners will be bound not to build cabins. That meant computers in net cafes will be placed on simple tables/desks so that no secret corner is left for committing any sort of vulgarity, crime and hacking. Besides, Internet cafe owners will be bound to get the identity card (CNIC) of their customer and they will also have to save and maintain the record of their customers’ identity cards. Additionally, the Internet cafes will remain open between 8 am till 10 pm only. If any computer at the cafe is found to have been misused for criminal, anti-social or anti-country activity, the owner of the internet cafe will be held responsible.
Apparently, the bill does address most of the issues related to internet cafes, but, there are points which need to be included in the bill before it is presented in the assembly for a comprehensive debate. For example, there are internet cafes which offer sheesha as an attraction for the customers to stay for longer period within the cafe. Not only does it bring an extra income to the cafe owners who sell sheesha within their premises, but also, it is a deviation for the youth from their productive work. Government must discourage such practices through the upcoming bill as well. It is a stark revelations that with over 20 million internet users and growing fast, Pakistan has managed to secure the number one slot for searching the term ‘sex’ globally for all years.
According to a 2010 Fox News report, Pakistan had outranked all countries in Google searches for pornographic terms last year. Narrowing the analytics for the search term to just 2011, Pakistan maintained the number one position, followed by India and Vietnam. Islamabad featured in the top 10 cities worldwide to search the word ‘sex’ in September and December 2011.
Lahore also featured in the top 10 cities for the months of January, March, April, May, June, July, September, October, November and December 2011. The months of February and August (Ramazan) were the only two months in 2011 that did not feature any cities from Pakistan in the global ranking. Over 1,000 pornographic websites are in the process of being blocked by internet service providers (ISP), following directives issued by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).