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Senate body approves controversial cybercrime bill

ISLAMABAD: Despite continuous outrage from the opposition parties and constructive
 
criticism by the civil society, the controversial Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill, 2016 has
 
been passed by the Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and
 
telecommunication. 
 
A senate body in Pakistan has approved the bill against cybercrime - which has been widely
 
criticized by the country's public as a means to curb human rights and freedom of speech. The
 
bill was Okayed by the National Assembly Standing Committee on IT in 2015 and was passed
 
by the lower house of the parliament on April 13, this year.
 
It will now be presented for discussion in the senate, which will be allowed to provide it with one
 
final endorsement before it can be signed by the President of Pakistan, Mamnoon Hussain and
 
written into the country's law. According to Dawn.com, the salient features of the bill include:
 
Up to seven years imprisonment, Rs10 million fine or both for hate speech, or trying to create
 
disputes and spread hatred on the basis of religion or sectarianism.
 
Up to three years imprisonment and Rs0.5 million fine or both for cheating others through
 
internet.
 
Up to five year imprisonment, Rs5 million fine or both for transferring or copying of sensitive
 
basic information.
 
Up to seven years imprisonment and Rs0.5 million fine or both for uploading obscene photos of
 
children.
 
Up to Rs50 thousand fine for sending messages irritating to others or for marketing purposes. If
 
the crime is repeated, the punishment would be three months imprisonment and a fine of up to
 
Rs1 million.
 
Up to three year imprisonment and a fine of up to Rs0.5 million for creating a website for
 
negative purposes.
 
Up to one year imprisonment or a fine of up to Rs1 million for forcing an individual for immoral
 
activity, or publishing an individual’s picture without consent, sending obscene messages or
 
unnecessary cyber interference.
 
Up to seven year imprisonment, a fine of Rs10 million or both for interfering in sensitive data
 
information systems.
 
Three month imprisonment or a Rs50 thousand fine or both for accessing unauthorized data.
 
Three year imprisonment and a fine of up to Rs5 million for obtaining information about an
 
individual’s identification, selling the information or retaining it with self.
 
Up to three year imprisonment and a fine of up to Rs0.5 million for issuing a SIM card in an
 
unauthorized manner.
 
Up to three year imprisonment and fine of up to Rs1 million rupees for making changes in a
 
wireless set or a cell phone.
 
Up to three year imprisonment and a fine of up to Rs1 million for spreading misinformation
 
about an individual.
 
Up to three years imprisonment and fine of up to Rs1 million for misusing the internet.
 
While it can be said that the cybercrime bill awards penalties against several illegal acts such as
 
the illegitimate usage of SIM cards and personal information, as well as child pornography, it has
 
been widely criticized by the general public of Pakistan as restrictive and unclear. Government
 
officials have failed to clarify the extent of "misuse of the internet" and the definition of a
 
"website for negative purposes".
 
According to the committee's chairman and Senator Shahi Syed, the committee invited all the
 
stakeholders including NGOs, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, the civil society and
 
the media for discussion on the bill.
 
“We have made utmost efforts to protect common people and innocent citizens from the misuse
 
of the law and many checks and balances have been proposed to incorporate,” he commented.
 
The bill is scheduled for one final viewing by the senate, and if approved, will ultimately be
 
signed by the President of Pakistan, in order to aid the government's efforts "at curbing
 
cybercrimes [by providing] mechanisms for their investigation, prosecution, trial and
 
international cooperation with respect of such offences."
 
The bill remains dangerously out of tune with the realities of the digital world. The major
 
objection still remains that it has the very real potential to infringe on human rights and be used
 
to stifle democratic dissent. No change has been made in the controversial definition of what
 
exactly constitutes cyber-terrorism or spreading hate material. The law hopes to cover a gap in
 
Pakistan’s legal infrastructure where the burgeoning use of the internet and social media remains
 
completely unregulated. But the law as it stands remains a seriously flawed one. Vaguely defined
 
crimes like the illegal use of internet data or tampering with mobile phones carry jail sentences
 
of up to three years.

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SENATE BODY APPROVES CONTROVERSIAL CYBERCRIME BILL

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