DIGITAL PAKISTAN MONITOR – January 2022

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DIGITAL PAKISTAN MONITOR – January 2022

A monthly report on trends relating to digital rights, policies, practices & media

 

Tracking: Internet and digital policies and regulations

Digitalization in governance and socio-economic domains

Digital rights violations and protections

Digital rights advocacy and defense

Digital media and online free speech

 Vol. 3, No. 1 January 2022 Edition

Produced by Freedom Network – www.fnpk.org

SECTION 1: Internet and digital policies and regulations

  • Federal and provincial governments (ministries and departments)
  • Internet regulators
  • Media regulators
  • Telecom regulators
  • Internet access / connectivity

Four districts in Sindh get high-speed broadband connectivity

Date: January 8, 2022 – Source: Dawn

The federal government launched the Next Generation Broadband for Sustainable Development (NGBSD) projects to ensure high-speed broadband internet connectivity in four districts of Sindh.

Mobile operators provide free on-net calling facility in Murree, Galiyat

Date: January 10, 2022 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA)

In view of the emergency situation in Murree and Galiyat, cellular service providers operating in Pakistan announced free provision of on-net calling facility to mobile users present in the region.

Pakistan to launch 5G connectivity in 2023

Date: January 11, 2022 – Source: Dawn

Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Syed Amin ul Haq said that the federal government will roll out its 5G internet connectivity program in early 2023.

Pakistan requires $6 billion for optic fiber internet connectivity

Date: January 12, 2022 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: The Nation

A report released by TABADLAB assessed that Pakistan required $6 billion to provide countrywide Optic Fiber (OF) broadband connectivity and expand its existing infrastructure and internet services.

Universal Service Fund refuses to launch telecommunication projects in Gilgit-Baltistan, AJK

Date: January 12, 2022 – Source: Dawn

The Universal Service Fund (USF), a subsidiary of the federal ministry for information technology and telecommunication, declined to launch projects in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) insisting that the two regions were constitutionally not part of Pakistan.

Submarine cable fault slows internet connectivity across Pakistan

Date: January 14, 2022 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

A fault was reported in the international submarine cable operated by the Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) due to which users across Pakistan may experience slower internet connectivity during peak traffic hours.

Government committee formed to review Pakistan’s 5G Strategic Plan

Date: January 27, 2022 – Source: Express Tribune

The federal government formed a high-powered committee to approve Pakistan’s first 5G Strategic Plan and oversee the process of releasing the next generation technology and spectrum auction.

Government imposes Rs30 million fine on mobile operator

Date: January 27, 2022 – Source: Express Tribune

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) imposed a penalty of Rs30 million on a mobile network operator over failure to meet the service quality standards as laid down in its license.

Pakistan improves on internet network residency index

Date: January 29, 2022 – Source: Express Tribune

Pakistan improved its ranking in the internet network residency index (NRI) after the country jumped 14 points on the global index in 2021.

SECTION 2: Digital rights advocacy and defense

  • Pakistan-based citizens and civil society organizations
  • Independent international digital rights organizations
  • UN and global multilateral organizations
  • Governmental and other sources

Federal Minister for adopting modern technology to bridge Pakistan’s rural-urban digital divide

Date: January 8, 2022 – Source: Express Tribune

Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Syed Amin ul Haq said that steps are being taken to connect people from rural areas of Pakistan to the ever-evolving digital world.

Pakistan for bridging digital divide for effective global transition

Date: January 14, 2022 – Source: Associated Press of Pakistan (APP)

The Permanent Representative of Pakistan at the United Nations Ambassador Munir Akram called for bridging the digital divide between developed and developing countries, declaring it essential for an effective global transition.

SECTION 3: Digital rights violations and protections

  • Citizens and netizens – including case studies
  • Media, journalists and other information practitioners
  • Online free speech
  • Online access to information
  • Privacy violations
  • Data protection
  • Surveillance
  • Misinformation / disinformation / fake news
  • Cybercrime

Pakistan’s cyber challenge

Date: January 6, 2022 – Source: The News

The Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) Cyber Crime Wing (CCW) received over 95,000 complaints from all over Pakistan in 2021. There remains a clear need for involving academia and the civil society to raise awareness against countering such digital crimes.

Court directs FIA to submit reports on 1,200 pending online harassment, identity theft inquiries

Date: January 7, 2022 – Source: Dawn

A local court directed the federal interior secretary, Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) director-general and additional director-general to ensure filing of investigation reports in court regarding 1,200 pending inquiries relating to online harassment, pornography and identity theft registered in Karachi.

Pakistan issues notice to cryptocurrency exchange in $100 million scam

Date: January 8, 2022 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: Business Standard

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) said it was probing a massive cryptocurrency scam involving 11 Binance-linked applications, through which over $100 million was fleeced from Pakistan investors. A notice, in this regard, was sent to an official representing Binance in Pakistan.

Pakistan records rise in cybercrimes

Date: January 11, 2022 – Source: Dawn

According to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) records, a total of 102,356 complaints related to cybercrimes were lodged with the agency. Whereas it is encouraging that a large number of people are reporting such crimes, it is important to appraise the performance of the agency.

Rights activists seek reform in Pakistan’s cybercrime law

Date: January 14, 2022 – Source: Dawn

According to a research published by the Institute of Research, Advocacy and Development (IRADA), digital rights advocates, politicians and lawyers in Pakistan appealed the federal government to initiate the reform process of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016.

Balakot YouTuber held for uploading offensive song

Date: January 18, 2022 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Freedom Network (FN)

The Balakot police arrested an independent content creator for uploading an allegedly offensive song on his YouTube channel after residents of the area staged a protest and blocked a road demanding the YouTuber’s arrest.

Pakistani woman awarded death sentence in online blasphemy case

Date: January 20, 2022 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The Guardian, Source 3: The Print

A local court in Rawalpindi sentenced Aneeqa Atiq, woman resident of Islamabad, to death for allegedly sending blasphemous messages over WhatsApp and Facebook and posting them on her online statuses.

Over 4,000 cybercrime cases reported in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2021

Date: January 22, 2022 – Source: Dawn

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) revealed that over 4,000 cases of cybercrimes of fake online accounts, hate speech, hacking and online financial fraud were reported in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa during 2021.

Increased digital surveillance in Pakistan aimed at silencing dissent

Date: January 25, 2022 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Freedom Network (FN)

Transparency International’s (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2021 reported that Pakistan was among countries that increased digital surveillance of citizens to silence those trying to hold governments accountable during the Covid-19 pandemic.

TikTok blocks over 8.9 million Pakistan-originated videos from its platform

Date: January 30, 2022 – Source: Dawn

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) said that video-sharing platform TikTok removed over 28.9 million videos and blocked 1.46 million accounts of Pakistani content creators for sharing ‘obscene’ content.

How to leap forward in data protection

Date: January 30, 2022 – Source: The News

Data protection is deemed crucial for Pakistan’s economic growth. All segments of the society, including the general public and policy makers, need to be aware of what is going on in the rest of the world and why data protection should remain a priority.

Lahore High Court petitioned against videogame for ‘inciting violence’

Date: January 30, 2022 – Source: Express Tribune

A writ petition was submitted in the Lahore High Court (LHC) seeking a ban on videogame Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) for ‘influencing and inciting violence’ among its players.

SECTION 4: Digitalization

  • Digitalization in governance sectors / e-governance
  • Digitalization in social and development sectors
  • Digitalization in business and commercial sectors

Domestic mobile handset production outstrips imports in Pakistan

Date: January 3, 2022 – Source: Express Tribune

According to official data and for the first time in the history of Pakistan, production of mobile handsets by local manufacturing plants surpassed the imports of mobile phones in 2021.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to highlight its initiatives on social media

Date: January 7, 2022 – Source: Dawn

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government approved a new advertisement policy to allow engaging of social media influencers for the effective propagation of its initiatives at village and neighborhood council levels.

Facilitating freelancers’ remittances in Pakistan

Date: January 9, 2022 – Source: The News

An International Labour Organization (ILO) report counts Pakistan among main freelance labour suppliers of the world. The federal government can tap into a massive revenue stream by facilitating the domestic workforce at par with overseas workers.

Taxes on informational technology products to hit Pakistan’s economic growth

Date: January 9, 2022 – Source: Express Tribune

Terming it detrimental for the growth of the information technology sector in Pakistan, the market stakeholders widely criticized the move to raise taxes and urged the federal government to re-evaluate and understand the repercussions of this decision.

SECP urges Pakistan’s corporate sector to go digital

Date: January 12, 2022 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: Business Recorder (BR)

The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) requested the country’s corporate sector to adopt digitalization, citing that it will not only improve their efficiency and ease of doing business but also help maintain a green environment.

Federal Bureau of Revenue introduces POS system to facilitate Pakistani retailers

Date: January 13, 2022 – Source: Associated Press of Pakistan (APP)

The Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR) introduced the Point-of-Sales (POS) system, a specialized inventory management system, to facilitate growth of business and tax depository for retailers in Pakistan.

State Bank of Pakistan to give five licenses for digital banks in Pakistan

Date: January 22, 2022 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The News

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) announced that it would grant up to five regulatory licenses for digital banks to operate in Pakistan and assured market participants that a dedicated team would remain available to provide necessary guidance in this regard.

Digital Park inaugurated in Islamabad

Date: January 25, 2022 – Source: Dawn

The Jazz Digital Park (JDP) established with an investment of $8 million was inaugurated in Islamabad and will improve onshore cloud services to help provide data storage capacity in Pakistan.

Hike in taxes on mobile phones, laptops in Pakistan invites criticism

Date: January 26, 2022 – Source: Express Tribune

Electronic dealers and other telecommunication sector stakeholders condemned the federal government’s action of increasing duties on mobile phones and laptops and declared the act counterproductive to the goal of Pakistan’s digitalization.

Great potential for Pakistan’s information technology upgrade

Date: January 29, 2022 – Source: Express Tribune

Pakistan is experiencing a silent revolution in the information technology (IT) industry. Various incentives are being granted to the sector by the federal government including the establishment of 15 software technology parks and IT-enabled services exports.

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OBJECTIVES: This series of monthly report aims to:

  • Track developments revolving around the framework of digitalization in Pakistan including policy and advocacy on digital rights, policy enforcements and digital rights violations, covering viewpoints of government, civil society, human rights community including digital rights campaigners, media, citizen journalists and other information practitioners, and regulators of electronic media, internet and telecom sectors, and netizens.
  • Monitor the interface between digital rights and Pakistan’s overall legal framework and how developments around them impact freedom of expression and access to information online as well as diversity and pluralism in Pakistan’s digital landscape, cyberspace and internet domains.
  • Follow developments around the themes of digital rights, freedom of expression, access to information, privacy, surveillance, data protection, access to internet services, telecom policies, etc.

INFORMATION SOURCES: This report monitors, among others, the following sources of information:

  • Government: Federal and provincial cabinets
  • Ministries: Related ministries, including Information and Broadcasting, Information Technology (IT) and Telecom, Human Rights, Science and Technology, Commerce and Industry, etc.
  • Legislatures: Senate, National Assembly, provincial assemblies, relevant standing committees
  • Regulators: Pakistan telecommunications Authority (PTA), Pakistan Electronic Media regulatory Authority (PEMRA), Press Council of Pakistan (PPC), State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), etc.
  • Global organizations: UN/Unesco, International Media Support (IMS), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Amnesty International (AI), Human Rights Watch (HRW), etc.
  • National organizations: Digital Rights Foundation (DRF), BoloBhi, Media Matters for Democracy (MMFD), Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development (IRADA), Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), etc.
  • Media: Dawn, The News, Express Tribune, The Nation, Pakistan Today, The Friday Times, etc.
  • Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • Local networks: Journalists Safety Hubs Network, Alliance on Diversity & Pluralism in Media, etc.
  • Research groups: Gallup Pakistan, IPSOS Pakistan, etc.

 

 

 

 

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