DIGITAL PAKISTAN MONITOR – March 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. 3 – March 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
Tele-density in AJK, Gilgit-Baltistan ‘bigger’ than rest of Pakistan
Date: March 1, 2022 – Source: Dawn
Tele-density in the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) increased by 8.3 per cent over the previous year 2019-2020 to 95.4 per cent which is much higher than that of mainland Pakistan.
Federal government approves Rs8 billion broadband projects in under-served Pakistani areas
Date: March 15, 2022 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: Express Tribune
The federal government launched seven projects worth about Rs8 billion for the provision of broadband services to over 2.5 million people in under-served and un-served areas of Pakistan.
Mobile and internet services to be suspended in Islamabad
Date: March 23, 2022 – Source: Express Tribune
Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) announced that mobile and internet services will be suspended in Islamabad and Rawalpindi during the Pakistan Day military parade scheduled to be held on March 23.
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
Pakistani book on social media lingo termed need of the hour
Date: March 16, 2022 – Source: Dawn
A book titled ‘Speak Up’ by journalist Mohiuddin Zia Siddiqui was launched at the Karachi Press Club (KPC). The book, exploring the ever-widening social media linguistics, was termed by participants as the need of the hour.
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
Amendments to electronic crimes law under fire in Pakistani courts
Date: March 1, 2022 – Source: Dawn
Despite the federal government’s refusal to budge on the issue, the Balochistan High Court (BHC) admitted for hearing a petition filed by the Balochistan Union of Journalists (BUJ) and Balochistan Bar Council (BBC) challenging the presidential ordinance amending the electronic crimes law.
Opposition parties plan to get electronic crimes law in Pakistan repealed
Date: March 1, 2022 – Source: The News
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif announced the joint opposition had decided to table a resolution in Parliament, seeking repeal of the Pakistan Electronics Crimes Act (PECA) amendment ordinance under Rule 145.
Federal government urged to repeal amendment to ‘draconian’ PECA Ordinance
Date: March 1, 2022 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: Express Tribune, Source 3: Amnesty International
Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged the federal government to repeal amendment to ‘draconian’ Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 (PECA), terming it the latest in a concerted attempt to restrict freedom of expression and stifle dissent in the country.
Punjab speaker, Jamaat-e-Islami back journalists’ struggle against PECA amendment
Date: March 2, 2022 – Source: Express Tribune
Punjab Assembly Speaker Pervaiz Elahi and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) chief Siraj-ul-Haq assured leaders of the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) and other media bodies of their complete support in their struggle to repeal amendments made through a presidential ordinance to the cyber-crime law.
Islamabad High Court questions Prime Minister’s assistance on PECA law amendment ordinance
Date: March 2, 2022 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: Express Tribune
The Islamabad High Court (IHC) issued a notice to the attorney general of Pakistan (AGP) over a plea challenging the Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Act, 2022 (PECA) and remarked that Prime Minister Imran Khan may have been ‘misguided’ on the issue.
Federal government agrees to withdraw PECA ordinance
Date: March 3, 2022 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: Daily Times, Source 3: Arab News
Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry said that he agreed to the opposition’s demand of withdrawing Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Act, 2022 (PECA) following deliberations and finalization of draft by the joint action committee on media.
Opposition parties move National Assembly for repeal of PECA amendment
Date: March 4, 2022 – Source: Express Tribune
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) moved resolutions in the National Assembly seeking to get the Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Act, 2022 (PECA) repealed.
Government willing to deliberate with stakeholders over PECA amendment
Date: March 7, 2022 – Source: Dawn
Senior vice chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureishi said that the federal government does not believe in curbing media independence and is willing to deliberate with stakeholders over Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Act, 2022 (PECA).
Pakistan needs to rethink its cyber defense policy needs
Date: March 7, 2022 – Source: Express Tribune
To address cybercrime issues, the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime is the first international multilateral treaty that encourages harmonizing national laws of who have ratified it. If Pakistan chooses to ratify this treaty, it will coordinate cybercrime investigations involving the European Union (EU).
Federal Investigation Agency halts arrests under PECA ordinance
Date: March 11, 2022 – Source: Express Tribune
The Islamabad High Court (IHC) was informed that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) would ensure that there were no more arrests under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Act, 2022 (PECA) until a report on the matter is submitted in court.
Attorney General informed Prime Minister PECA could be ‘misused’
Date: March 11, 2022 – Source: The News
The Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Jawed Khan said in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) that he informed Prime Minister Imran Khan that the Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Act, 2022 (PECA) could be misused.
Government’s Web Evaluation Cell reports 60 thousand links of unethical content
Date: March 14, 2022 – Source: Express Tribune
Federal Ministry for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony’s Web Evaluation Cell (WEC) had reported over 60,000 social media links of blasphemous, sectarianism and unethical content in two years.
President’s tweet cited as ‘proof’ of government’s plans to amend PECA law
Date: March 15, 2022 – Source: Dawn
A tweet of President Dr Arif Alvi announcing the convening of a session of the National Assembly on February 18 – that was subsequently cancelled – was produced as evidence to prove government’s ‘ill intentions’ to promulgate Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Act, 2022 (PECA).
Court orders mechanism to filter out objectionable content from TikTok
Date: March 17, 2022 – Source: The News
Peshawar High Court (PHC) ordered the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to come up with a mechanism in consultation with video-sharing platform TikTok to filter out ‘objectionable’ content published in Pakistan.
Defamation under PECA law a non-cognizable offence, rules Lahore High Court
Date: March 24, 2022 – Source: Dawn
The Lahore High Court (LHC) ruled that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) is supposed to register a first information report (FIR) only in case of a cognizable offence under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Act, 2022 (PECA) and too after complying with its investigation rules.
SECTION 4: Digitalization
- Digitalization in governance sectors / e-governance
- Digitalization in social and development sectors
- Digitalization in business and commercial sectors
Government announces zero-tax policy for Pakistan’s freelance community
Date: March 7, 2022 – Source: Digital Pakistan (DP)
The Federal Ministry for Information Technology and Telecommunication shared a draft package of fiscal and non-fiscal incentives for Pakistan-based digital freelancers containing reduced sales tax and income tax holiday on export income, revenue and receipts till 2030.
Temporary registration of overseas Pakistanis’ mobile devices announced
Date: March 10, 2022 – Source: Digital Pakistan (DP)
To address issues faced by overseas Pakistanis and foreigners with regards to registration of mobile devices, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) announced the development of a new mechanism to allow ‘temporary’ registration of handsets to visitors visiting Pakistan for a short duration.
Government announces creation of digital archive to protect old data of Radio Pakistan
Date: March 16, 2022 – Source: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)
Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry informed the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting that a digital archive was being created in Radio Pakistan to protect and maintain its old data.
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.