ISLAMABAD: The federal government is tabling its draft cyber security bill in the National Assembly (NA) today (Friday) to ensure quick implementation of National Action Plan (NAP) against terrorism but the draft bill still misses several key areas like online blasphemy, cyber stalking, ‘spamming’ and ‘spoofing’ which are considered serious offences in some other countries.
“The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2014” is being presented in the parliament one year after its formulation by the Ministry of Information Technology in consultation with other stakeholders. According to a spokesman of the ministry, the prime minister has been requested to bypass the cabinet to send the law directly to the NA.
The draft law has 51 sections and it explicitly covers cyber terrorism and proposes rigorous punishments for disruption of public services or online coercion, threat and intimidation. Section 7 of the draft law deals with cyber terrorism, which proposes 14 years’ imprisonment and Rs50 million fine on offences related to terrorism.
“Whoever commits or threatens to commit any of the offences under subsections (1), (3) and (5) of section 5 and sub sections (1), (3), (5) and (7) of section 6 where- (a) the use or threat is designed to coerce, intimidate, overawe or create a sense of fear, panic or insecurity in the Government or the public or a section of the public or community or sect or in society; or (b) the use or threat is made for the purpose or motive of advancing a cause whether political, religious, sectarian or ethnic, with the intention of: (i) interfering with, disrupting or damaging a public utility service or a communications system used by the public at large; (ii) severe interference with, seriously disrupting or seriously damaging a designated payment system which interconnects with multiple financial institutions; (iii) severe interference with, seriously disrupting or seriously damaging a mass transportation or mass traffic system; (iv) severe interference with, seriously disrupting or seriously damaging a critical infrastructure that is used to serve a public function for the public at large; (v) severe interference with, seriously disrupting or seriously damaging critical infrastructure in use by the armed forces, civil armed forces, security forces or law enforcement agencies; (vi) causes injury through the acts mentioned in clauses (i), (iii), (iv) and (v); or (vii) enabling any of the things mentioned in sub-clauses (i) to (vi) to be done, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to fourteen years or with fine which may extend to fifty million rupees or with both,” states the draft bill.
The draft law calls for establishment of a “Cyber Authority” for implementation of the law. The bill also calls for protection of intermediaries and service providers and experts believed to be paving the way for restoration of video-sharing website Youtube as the management of website had demanded the legal protection for opening its server in Pakistan.
However, the draft fails to address several issues like cyber stalking, ‘spamming’ and ‘spoofing’. Legal experts believe amendments should be made in the proposed law to prevent misuse of social media to ridicule and defame the respected religious and social personalities.
It is pertinent to mention that filthy and baseless campaigns are launched on a daily basis by the social media users against those who do not suit them, including the Prophet (PBUH), Pakistan, Quaid-i-Azam and other credible persons.
Abusive and ridiculous fake pictures of credible persons drawn by manipulating graphic design software is disseminated by the unscrupulous social media users. These people also make poisonous propaganda against Pakistan, other religions and spread untrue allegations of moral and financial corruption against those who do not fit in their frame of mind. It is shocking that the draft law does not propose any punishment for such perpetrators of immorality.
The draft law also ignores the ground realities and values of Pakistani society while ignoring the clauses on blasphemy and defamation. The bill, formulated by MOIT in consultation with the Law Ministry, includes a provision on the protection of women but does not propose any punishment for persons involved in spreading blasphemous material or religiously offensive content on the internet.
When contacted by The News, a spokesman of the Ministry of Information Technology Sagheer Ahmad said amendments can be made in the draft bill by the parliamentarians to include clauses like cyber stalking and spoofing.
“We have prepared the draft law in consultation with the legal experts, FIA, and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) but this law is just a beginning. More legislation is coming to cover all the areas dealing with cyberspace,” he said.
He said the input of parliamentarians and members of the standing committees will be taken to improve the law before its approval by the parliament. He said the cases related to blasphemy are already covered under penal code.