STAFF REPORT ISB: Terrorism, hacking, electronic forgery and fraud, child pornography have been declared punishable offences in Pakistan as the National Assembly has recently two passed bills – “The Foreign Exchange Regulation (Amendment) Bill, 2014” and “Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill, 2016”.

Minister of State for IT Anusha Rehman moved the Foreign Exchange Regulation (Amendment) Bill, 2014″ and it was approved by the House without much criticism from the opposition parties as most of their amendments were accommodated in it after deliberations at the level of relevant standing committee.

The bill has been criticized by the IT industry and the civil society for what they said curbing human rights and giving overreaching powers to law enforcement agencies.

According to the bill, hacking as well as interference with data and information systems, specialized cyber related electronic forgery and electronic fraud, cyber terrorism (electronic or cyber attack on the critical information infrastructure), unauthorized interception conducted by civilians, use of malicious code viruses, glorification of an offence, hate speech, identity theft etc have been declared punishable offences.

According to clause 10 about cyber terrorism, anyone advancing religious, ethnic or sectarian discord or involved in creating a sense of fear, panic or insecurity in the government or the public shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 14 years or with fine up to fifty million rupees or with both. For the glorification of an offense and hate speech, the bill envisages imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years or with fine up to ten million rupees or with both.

The bill also envisages punishment both jail and fine for those who intentionally and publicly exhibits or displays any false information about the reputation or privacy of a person.

The federal government under the bill may establish or designate a law enforcement agency investigation of offences under this act. The authorized officer will have the powers to access and inspect the operation of any specified information system. Under the bill, the government on receipt of request from any foreign country can extend cooperation for the purposes of investigation or proceedings concerning offences related to information systems and electronic communication or for collection of evidence in electronic form.

The bill authorized the government to constitute one or more computer emergency response teams to respond to any threat or attack on any critical infrastructure information systems or critical infrastructure data or widespread attack on information systems in Pakistan.

The legislation provides new investigative powers to effectively investigate cyber crimes cases. The bill also includes specific safeguards to protect the privacy of citizens and avoid abuse of the exercise of these powers.

The legislation will help effectively prevent cyber crimes and shall also contribute to the national security of the nation whilst providing and enabling a secure environment for investment in IT, e-commerce and e-payments. It said that the bill shall also afford protection to citizens facing threats from cyber criminals both at home and abroad.

The House passed the “The Foreign Exchange Regulation (Amendment) Bill, 2014” with majority. The bill the central bank to impose a penalty of up to Rs 500,000 for each contravention, and where the contravention is a continuing one with a further penalty which may extend to ten thousand rupees for each day during which such contravention continues.

The Bill further stipulates that as “Provided that before taking action under this sub-section, a notice to show cause shall be issued by an officer of the State Bank not below the rank of Assistant Director and an opportunity of being heard shall be afforded.

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