Reining in Cyber Crime
A law that could curb cyber crime awaits approval of the Pakistani parliament.
The Prevention of Cyber Crimes Law has been awaiting parliamentary approval for months. If passed in the current shape, it would contravene several provisions of the Constitution. However, if it is fine-tuned and certain clauses are inserted in it regarding protection of basic rights as enshrined in the Constitution. The Bill could go a long way in preventing cyber crimes in the country and contribute to the security of the state.
The Cyber Crimes Bill 2015 was approved by the NA Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication in April this year. It was not put for final approval of the house due to criticism from the civil society, including media, NGOs and lawyers. The delay in the passage of the Bill has left the subject of cyber crimes unaddressed for a long time, greatly endangering state and personal security.
Officially, the objective of the Bill
is to effectively prevent cyber crimes and contribute to national and personal security, while providing and enabling a secure environment for investment in information technology, e-commerce and e-payment systems.
The Minister of State for Information Technology, Anusha Rehman, has reportedly said regarding the Bill that it will also give protection to citizens since this has hitherto not been completely effective, exposing people to unmitigated threats posed by cyber criminals both at home and abroad,” the Bill said.
There is an adverse security situation in the country due to the insurgency, militancy and terrorism by various groups, specifically the Tehreek-eTaliban Pakistan (TTP), the Al Qaeda, the Islamic State (IS) and their local and regional affiliates.
The extensive use of information technology, particularly the Internet by these groups, the enactment of a cyber crime law has become extremely necessary. Many criminal gangs and individuals have been making use of information technology to mentally torture and intimidate to extort money from citizens and exploit people. The misuse of information technology by criminal and anti-state elements warrants that a vibrant law be put in place. However, the draft law which has been approved for passage by the National Assembly has many clauses and aspects which are highly intrusive to personal liberty and do not serve the very purpose of protecting the state and its citizens from harm through the use of information technology. According to the Bill, online criticism of religion, the country, its courts, and the armed forces are among subjects which will invoke official intervention.
Human rights groups and activists have termed the Cyber Crimes Bill a ‘draconian’ law. The groups advocating freedom of expression and Internet