The controversial Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill 2015 was approved in the National Assembly (NA) on Wednesday.
The bill must also be approved by Senate before it can be signed into law.
The draconian bill ─ which has been criticised by the IT industry as well as civil society for curbing human rights and giving overreaching powers to law enforcement agencies ─ was submitted to the NA for voting in Jan 2015 by the Ministry of IT.
It was then referred to the NA Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication to address concerns raised by the opposition members and stakeholders from the industry.
A draft of the cybercrime bill was then forcefully cleared by the standing committee in September before being forwarded to the NA for final approval without showing committee members the copy of the bill.
According to critics, the proposed bill criminalises activities such as sending text messages without the receiver’s consent or criticising government actions on social media with fines and long-term imprisonment. Industry representatives have argued that the bill would harm business as well.
Online criticism of religion, the country, its courts, and the armed forces are among subjects which could invoke official intervention under the bill.
The bill would enable the federal government to establish or designate a law enforcement agency for the investigation of offences under this Act. The passage of the bill was not easy and it took the government over three hours to get the bills passed as over 100 amendments were moved for consideration of the House. However, the House passed 39 amendments moved by the Minister of State for Information Technology while rejecting 63 amendments tabled by the opposition. Hence, the bill was reshaped in totality.
All offences under the new law except from cyber terrorism and child pornography are non-cognizable, bailable and compoundable.
The issuance of unauthorized SIM cards will be cognizable offence by the investigation agency on a written complaint by the Authority.
The punishment for cyber terrorism is tagged as 14 years imprisonment or Rs 50 million fine or both while punishment for offence against violation of modesty of a natural person is seven years imprisonment or Rs five million fine or both in case of offence against minor (child pornography) will increase to 10 years imprisonment or Rs 10 million or both.
The punishment for other offences under the law varies from three months to seven years imprisonment and fine ranging from Rs 50,000 to Rs five million.
Minister of State for IT Anusha Rehman Khan said that the discussion on this important bill continued for few years and credit goes to all the political parties for giving their valuable inputs on it. She said the bill will also help protect critical infrastructure existing on the cyber space like that of the Nadra database.
Under the bill, the federal government will establish or designate a law enforcement agency for the investigation of offences under this act. The government will also establish or designate a forensic laboratory independent of investigation agency to provide expert opinion before the court or for benefit of the investigation agency in relation to electronic evidence collected for purpose of investigation and prosecution of offences under this law.
The legislation will effectively prevent cyber-crimes and contribute to the national security and will also provide an environment for investment in Information Technology, e-commerce and e-payment systems.
Under the law, the unauthorized use of identity information, tempering of communication equipment, interference with critical infrastructure, information system or data, making, obtaining or supplying device for use of offence, cyber stalking are among crimes which have been made as punishable crimes.
The law also provides that the federal government may on receipt of request extend such cooperation to any foreign Government, foreign agency or international organization or agency for the purpose of investigation or proceedings concerning certain offences.
Critics say that a government-led sub-committee put in time to modify the draft that had originally been chiseled by the IT Ministry and industry stakeholders and activists — the latter now holding that they were excluded from the process of finalising the draft.
What now stands to be tabled in the National Assembly, they say, is a loosely worded piece of legal drafting that not just betrays a poor grasp of the technical aspects of digital communications and the internet, but also contains several deeply problematic clauses that are open to misinterpretation and may be used as crutches for censorship and the suppression of views a government finds unpalatable.
The House also passed two other bills including the Foreign Exchange Regulation (Amendment) Bill 2014 moved by Parliamentary Secretary for Finance Rana Muhammad Afzal and the Foreigners (Amendment) Bill 2016 moved by Parliamentary Secretary for Interior Maryam Aurangzeb.
Being author of many books on cyber laws, and expert i also vetted this draft but still it is harsh and un-compatible law for Pakistan and its citizens, will definite restrict open research behaviors of students.
You claim to have written many books on cyber laws and also claim to be an expert but you can't write one sentence right? So interesting! Funny thing is you won't even know what grammatical mistakes you have in that 1 sentence.
Ya grammatical mistakes, as often use slang and text messaging language while posting comments to make comments simple and easy.
my detail and lengthy criticism on this electronic law bill is available at https://www.academia.edu/12779343/Critical_analys…
This person ‘Kamran’ looks like a patwari 😛
Was not expecting the writer to plagiarize Dawn's article so shamelessly word-to-word! http://www.dawn.com/news/1251853
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