DIGITAL PAKISTAN MONITOR – July 2021
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. 2, No. 7 – July 2021 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
Federal government awards Rs6.5 billion projects for high-speed internet connectivity
Date: July 9, 2021 – Source: The News
The federal government awarded Rs6.5 billion worth of projects to provide high-speed internet connectivity to 3.8 million people living in South Punjab.
Only 12 per cent households in Pakistan have at least one facility of digital devices
Date: July 27, 2021 – Source: Dawn
According to a survey conducted by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), nearly 12 per cent of households in the country reported having at least once digital facility such computer, laptop or tablet.
Federal cabinet approves Pakistan’s first Cyber Security Policy
Date: July 28, 2021 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: Express Tribune, Source 3: Pakistan Today
The federal cabinet approved the National Cyber Security Policy 2021 for data protection and cyber security as the government prepared to launch comprehensive investigation into the Pegasus spying scandal.
Economic council turns down revision in auction of digital spectrum criteria
Date: July 28, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune
The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the federal cabinet turned down a proposal to revise the criteria for release of additional digital spectrum to telecommunication companies and decided to auction spectrum in line with past practice.
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
Rising patriarchal elitism in the Pakistan’s digital sphere
Date: July 17, 2021 – Source: Dawn
It is important to deconstruct moral policing by the state of Pakistan’s youth and consider factors that motivate the act of banning entire digital platforms in the country, something that needs to be banned by law itself.
Date: July 27, 2021 – Source: The News
Internet should be considered a basic human right and access to high-speed broadband connectivity should be a top priority for any government in Pakistan.
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
- Misinformation / disinformation / fake news
TikTok removes over 6 million videos from Pakistan as it battles bans
Date: July 1, 2021 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: Express Tribune, Source 3: Khaleej Times
A spokesperson from TikTok announced that more than six million short video clips were removed from Pakistan between January and March as a result of both user and government requests.
Islamabad High Court warns investigative agency against misuse of authority in cybercrime cases
Date: July 1, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Asia News International (ANI)
The Islamabad High Court (IHC) warned the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) Cyber Crime Wing (CCW) to exercise its powers judiciously or else the court would heavy fines on the investigation officers for misuse of powers.
President urges halt to unverified and fake news in Pakistan
Date: July 2, 2021 – Source: The News
President Dr Arif Alvi strongly discouraged the flow of unverified and fake news on online and other mediums of information exchange as it creates panic in the society.
Sindh High Court lifts ban on TikTok in Pakistan
Date: July 3, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Express Tribune, Source 3: The Nation
The Sindh High Court (SHC) ordered the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to unblock the video-sharing application TikTok after the internet regulator assured the court that it will take a decision on the complaint of a petitioner against the social media platform.
Sindh High Court directs regulatory authority to ensure filtration of unlawful online content
Date: July 9, 2021 – Source: The News
The Sindh High Court (SHC) directed Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to ensure filtration of all the videos uploaded on the various internet applications including TikTok and timely removal of those containing unlawful and objectionable content.
Women activists in Balochistan face online harassment and defamation
Date: July 13, 2021 – Source: The Diplomat
Despite the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) best effort, digital insecurity in Balochistan has become a great cause for concern. Women activists remain vulnerable to online harassment and defamation while the state remains unable to provide them with safe online spaces.
India accused to trying to hack Prime Minister Imran Khan’s phone
Date: July 20, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The News, Source 3: Al Jazeera
The federal government initiated investigations into the hacking of a mobile phone number once used by Prime Minister Imran Khan involving the Pegasus software and accused Indian authorities of involvement in the hack.
Pakistan sees surge in silencing of mainstream and social media
Date: July 23, 2021 – Source: The Diplomat
Officials in Pakistan argue that the coming of the digital media era has made new forms of regulation necessary. Governments, however, should mandate corporate transparency especially on the incentives that grease the wheels of disinformation instead of imposing increasing curbs on media platforms.
Pakistan seeks United Nations probe into India’s involvement in Pegasus spying scandal
Date: July 24, 2021 – Source 1: Reuters, Source 2: Express Tribune
Pakistan urged the United Nations to investigate the Israeli-developed Pegasus software and India’s state-sponsored surveillance operations to spy on journalists, human rights defenders and politicians.
Parliamentary panel urges need for stringent cybercrime law in Pakistan
Date: July 30, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune
The National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Defense stressed the need for strengthening Pakistan’s cybercrime law to prevent further data leakages.
Increase in hate speech against Ahmadi community on digital platforms in Pakistan
Date: July 30, 2021 – Source: The Diplomat
Members of the Ahmadi community in Pakistan complained about the increase in hate speech on social media platforms and the ‘unfavorable’ response of the National Response Center for Cyber Crimes (NRCCC) towards redressal of such complaints.
Four content creators jailed in Multan for ‘spreading fear and terror’ through videos
Date: July 31, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune
Four content creators accused of ‘spreading fear and terror’ through their videos on short-video platform TikTok were sent to jail for a month’s detention by the Deputy Commissioner (DC) of Multan.
SECTION 4: Digitalization
- Digitalization in governance sectors / e-governance
- Digitalization in social and development sectors
- Digitalization in business and commercial sectors
Government revises regulatory duty to encourage manufacturing of mobile handsets in Pakistan
Date: July 2, 2021 – Source: Dawn
In a move to encourage mobile phone manufacturing in Pakistan, the federal government revised the upward regulatory duties in flat rates for six different tax slabs according to import value of the mobile handset.
Technology start-ups in Pakistan raise $128 million
Date: July 2, 2021 – Source: Dawn
Investments in Pakistani technology start-ups during the first half of 2021 amounted to $128 million exceeding the amount raised during the last three years combined.
Finance secretary asked to probe why PayPal refuses to operate in Pakistan
Date: July 8, 2021 – Source: Dawn
A parliamentary panel directed the secretary of finance to hold a meeting with all stakeholders to probe why PayPal refused to start operations in Pakistan.
South Punjab set to get its first Amazon facility
Date: July 9, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The News
South Punjab’s first Amazon Fulfillment and Facilitation Center (AFFC) is set to be inaugurated in Multan to introduce and market a variety of products worldwide with made-in-Pakistan signature.
Pakistan Television broadcasts to be digitized by year-end
Date: July 9, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune
Managing Director of the Pakistan Television Corporation (PTVC) informed the Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting that their broadcast is scheduled to be fully digitized by year-end.
Technology firms digitalize grocery shops in Pakistan
Date: July 13, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune
Technology firms have moved to introduce innovation in grocery shops and integrate them into the growing digital ecosystem of Pakistan in a bid to provide solutions to the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Samsung to start assembling mobile handsets in Pakistan
Date: July 17, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Express Tribune
Lucky Motor Corporation (LMC) signed an agreement with Samsung Gulf Electronics Company for assembling Samsung mobile phone devices in Pakistan.
Debunking myths about online education in Pakistan
Date: July 26, 2021 – Source: Dawn
As sceptics question the effectiveness of online learning in Pakistan, research shows that online education improves student retention and takes less time than the same content would in a physical classroom.
Pakistan to start mobile handset exports in 2022
Date: July 28, 2021 – Source: Dawn
Advisor to Prime Minister on Commerce Abdul Razzaq Dawood informed a parliamentary panel that manufacturers in Pakistan aim to start exporting mobile phone handsets next year.
Facebook Marketplace opens new avenue for Pakistani entrepreneurs
Date: July 31, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Express Tribune, Source 3: Pakistan Today
Adviser to Prime Minister on Trade and Investment Abdul Razzaq Dawood welcomed the announcement by Facebook to introduce its ‘Marketplace’ feature in Pakistan and said that the opportunity could prove to be a lifeline for small and medium enterprises.
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.