DIGITAL PAKISTAN MONITOR – November 2021

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DIGITAL PAKISTAN MONITOR – November 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. 11 November 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

Telenor Pakistan launches 4G connectivity in Azad Jammu and Kashmir

Date: November 4, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The Nation

Telenor Pakistan launched 4G technology services in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK). The expansion in such connectivity in the region would enable access for its residents to services in e-education, e-health and e-governance.

Ufone secures largest syndicated financing for 4G spectrum and its rollout in Pakistan

Date: November 8, 2021 – Source: Digital Pakistan (DP)

Cellular services provider Ufone secured its largest ever syndicated financing from five commercial banks to fund the acquisition and rollout of its latest 4G connectivity services in Pakistan.

Government lifts ban on TikTok in Pakistan

Date: November 20, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The News, Source 3: Express Tribune

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) restored the services of video-sharing application TikTok after five months on assurances of the platform to control publication of ‘immoral and indecent’ content.

Islamabad High Court seeks expert opinion on new social media rules

Date: November 23, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Express Tribune

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) appointed Sadaf Baig, Nighat Dad, Fareeha Aziz, Rafay Baloch, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) as amicus curiae and sought their opinion on whether the new social media rules were constitutional.

Telenor looking for merger opportunities in Pakistan

Date: November 23, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Phone World

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Telenor Group Sigve Brekke said that they were looking for merger opportunities for their Pakistan-based telecommunication operations and the decision was based on the difficulties faced by the operator in ensuring vast geographical coverage.

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority announces reduction in mobile termination rates

Date: November 27, 2021 – Source 1: Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), Source 2: Dawn

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority announced reduction in the mobile termination rate (MTR) for all cellular operators from Rs0.70 per minute to Rs0.50 with effect from January 1, 2022.   

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

Another attempt by Pakistan’s government to censor social media

Date: November 2, 2021 – Source: Reporters without Borders (RSF)

Reporters without Borders (RSF) demanded the immediate withdrawal of a draconian new set of regulations that Pakistan’s information technology and telecommunication ministry plans to impose on social media platforms active in the country.

Shrinking space for digital journalism in Pakistan

Date: November 6, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

In Pakistan, over 138 journalists have been killed since 1990 mainly for unearthing corruption and abuse of power. Several governments have put in place draconian laws to ‘keep a tight leash’ on journalists working in the cyberspace and digital sphere.

Twitter spaces – uniting Pakistani women through powerful conversations

Date: November 9, 2021 – Source: The News

Twitter Spaces has provided Pakistani women with effective communication platform to start holding conversations related to feminism, women’s problems, domestic violence, child marriages and other issues.

Pakistan aims to bridge digital divide

Date: November 19, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Syed Amin-ul-Haq said that Pakistan was committed to bridging the digital divide between urban and rural areas and to providing an environment where all citizens can reap rewards of a thriving digital economy.

Digital channels unlocking opportunities for women in Pakistan

Date: November 28, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

As the e-commerce industry picks up pace in Pakistan, experts believe that it is unlocking new avenues of economic growth, opportunities and platforms for women.

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

State Bank of Pakistan confirms only National Bank faced cyber-attack

Date: November 1, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

Terming reports of data breach and financial loss as ‘fake news’, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) clarified that no bank other than the state-owned National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) faced a cyber-attack.

Federal Investigation Agency arrests 50 suspects for spreading extremism on social media

Date: November 1, 2021 – Source: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) arrested 50 suspects in its latest country-wide crackdown against groups and individuals suspected of spreading extremism and inciting hate on social media platforms in Pakistan.

Website launched to highlight violence against media in Pakistan

Date: November 2, 2021 – Source: Dawn

The team of Editors for Safety (EFS), in collaboration with the Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), launched the Pakistan Journalists Memorial website at the Karachi Press Club (KPC). The website aims to highlight atrocities committed against media professionals in the country.

Minister warns of cyber security challenges in Pakistan

Date: November 2, 2021 – Source: Dawn

As the cyber-attack on state-owned National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) caused disruption in consumer services, Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Syed Amin-ul-Haq warned of serious cyber security challenges faced by Pakistan’s public and private sector.

FIA offers help even though National Bank yet to file official complaint regarding cyber-attack

Date: November 2, 2021 – Source: Dawn

Although the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) did not file an official complaint over a cyber-attack on its databases, a team of the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) cybersecurity wing visited the bank’s headquarters and offered its assistance in probing the attack.

Crackdown on dissent; Two dozen Pakistani journalists prosecuted under PECA in two years

Date: November 2, 2021 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: Al Jazeera

At least 23 professional journalists in Pakistan have been targeted under the country’s Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), 2016 in the past two years, establishing a pattern of using state-endorsed threats of legal action to silence dissent.

State Bank of Pakistan quashes rumor of more cyber-attacks

Date: November 2, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) refuted news reports of cyber-attacks on nine commercial banks operating in Pakistan and confirmed that only state-owned National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) came under attack.

Cases of cybercrimes in Pakistan on the rise

Date: November 2, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Syed Amin-ul-Haq said that the number of cybercrimes in Pakistan is on the rise given the increasing use of technology and online activities.

Islamabad High Court seeks report on FIA’s powers under electronic crimes law

Date: November 3, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) instructed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to submit a detailed report after consulting all stakeholders regarding its powers under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), 2016.

TikTok, PTA discuss content moderation on video-sharing application

Date: November 3, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

TikTok and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) held a discussion with regard to content moderation on the video-sharing application in line with local Pakistani laws and social norms.

TikTok, PTA agree to establish mechanism for provision of lawful content in Pakistan

Date: November 4, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The Current

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) agreed to establish a mechanism with video-sharing platform TikTok to ensure that all content uploaded on the social media platform is lawful and ‘safe for the society’.

Punjab police to counter online abuse with new social media strategies

Date: November 6, 2021 – Source: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

The Punjab police launched multiple initiatives for large-scale reforms in its social media activities to counter hate campaigns against law enforcement agencies and address public complaints.

Government announces emergency response team to counter cyber-attacks

Date: November 7, 2021 – Source: Associated Press of Pakistan (APP)

Federal Ministry for Information Technology and Telecommunication announced the formation of Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) at the regional and national level aimed at countering future cyber-attacks on government platforms.

Pakistan’s crackdown on free press leaves journalists vulnerable to attacks on social media

Date: November 9, 2021 – Source: Duetsche Welle (DW)

Journalists in Pakistan continue to work in an increasingly authoritarian environment. They face draconian media laws and a culture of impunity for their attackers, which has opened a door to undeterred intimation and threats on social media platforms.

Islamabad High Court seeks reply from PTA over TikTok ban

Date: November 11, 2021 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: Daily Times

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) sought a reply from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) while hearing a petition against the ban on video-sharing application TikTok and social media rules.

The need for securing online data

Date: November 14, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

Despite a rising number of incidents around the world, cyber-attacks may still seem a remote problem to most. However, with everyone’s vital information now flowing through cyberspace, it is the general public that faces most of the risk.

Facebook alleges hackers in Pakistan targeted Afghan with links to previous government

Date: November 17, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Express Tribune, Source 3: The Hill

Facebook’s threat investigators alleged that hackers in Pakistan used their platform to target users in Afghanistan with connections to the previous government during the Taliban’s takeover of the country.

Cybersecurity through laws in Pakistan

Date: November 17, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

Although considerable initiative for cybersecurity in Pakistan through implementation of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 has been taken, there is a lot more that needs to be done. The federal government must include local law enforcement authorities in its cybersecurity circle.

Federal Investigation Agency urges information security audit in Pakistani banks

Date: November 21, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) hosted a meeting with the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and officials from all commercial banks operating in Pakistan to strengthen and coordinate efforts to fight money laundering, cyber-attacks and online frauds.

FIA’s response to upsurge in online scams in Pakistan deemed slow

Date: November 23, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

1,363 cases of online fraud have been registered by the Federal investigation Agency’s (FIA) Cyber Crime Lahore Circle since January this year. The upsurge in such crimes is not only the ignorance of gullible customers but due to law enforcement agencies lacking expertise to deal with online scams.

Inquiry ordered against bureaucrat for mocking federal government on social media

Date: November 24, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Express Tribune, Source 3: The Nation

Prime Minister Imran Khan issued directives to open inquiry against a senior joint secretary of the Cabinet Division for posting ‘objectionable comments’ against the federal government on a social media platform.

Punjab Assembly body seeks social media code of ethics

Date: November 25, 2021 – Source: Dawn

Expressing concern at posting of fake material against legislators, a special committee of the Punjab Assembly south preparation of a code of ethics for social media and strict action against elements behind the move.

Federal Investigation Agency reports biometric data of citizens compromised

Date: November 26, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The News, Source 3: Express Tribune

An official of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) informed the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Information Technology that the biometric system of the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) had been hacked.

SECTION 4: Digitalization

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

Pakistani digital startup working to ensure financial independence for women

Date: November 1, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

Oraan, Pakistan’s first women-led digital startup, secured $3 million in seed funding to provide women with a safe space to save and break the taboo surrounding conversations around money and investment.

Government launches online application to facilitate overseas Pakistanis

Date: November 1, 2021 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: Associated Press of Pakistan (APP)

Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Shah Mehmood Qureshi launched a digital application, the ‘FM Portal’, to provide overseas Pakistanis living in 187 countries as a platform that will provide them with quick solutions to their official issues.

Online payment of taxes and duties spikes in Pakistan

Date: November 2, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

Business and people in Pakistan are rapidly adopting digital channels to pay their taxes and duties. The federal government revealed that it has collected over Rs4.31 trillion through online banking since the facility was introduced in 2018.

Xiaomi to set up mobile handset manufacturing plant in Pakistan

Date: November 3, 2021 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: Gizmo China, Source 3: ARY News

A material disclosure statement at the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSE) indicated that Xiaomi will begin production of smartphones from January 2022. The company aims to produce over three million mobile handsets annually in its Pakistan-based production facility.

Government to build Information Technology Park in Karachi

Date: November 4, 2021 – Source: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

The federal government announced disbursement of funds amounting to Rs31 billion for the establishment of an information technology park in Karachi. The park will help promote efficient and cost-effective collaboration, digitalization and innovation.

Government-backed Roshan Digital Account attracts $2.7 billion

Date: November 7, 2021 – Source: Dawn

Inflows through government-backed Roshan Digital Account (RDA) reached $2.7 billion in October since its launch in September 2020 reflecting the growth of confidence of overseas Pakistanis in using digital means to remit funds into the country.

Pakistani bookkeeping application raises $6 million in seed funding

Date: November 8, 2021 – Source: Dawn

Udhaar Book, a Pakistani bookkeeping application managed to raise $6 million in seed funding. These funds will be used to build the application’s ecosystem to enable small businesses to conduct digital bookkeeping, manage inventory, invoicing, staff attendance and payroll.

Pakistan-based financial technology startup raises $3.3 million in seed funding

Date: November 9, 2021 – Source: Dawn

Pakistan-based financial technology startup Saveyour, a pioneer in developing the country’s first cashback application and pay-per-sale affiliate marketing network, raised $3.3 million in a seed funding round for operational expansion.

President for expediting digitization of parliament

Date: November 10, 2021 – Source: Associated Press of Pakistan (APP)

President Dr Arif Alvi called for expediting the process of digitalization of the parliament enabling it to handle the legislation process efficiently.

Digital know-how for Pakistanis crucial for economic stability

Date: November 14, 2021 – Source: The News

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Governor Shah Farman said that the present digital era and economic autonomy is impossible without the development of Pakistan’s information technology sector.

State Bank of Pakistan digitizes regulatory approval process

Date: November 15, 2021 – Source 1: State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Source 2: The News

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) started accepting online requests for banking policy regulatory approvals from financial institutions in a bid to enhance efficiency and eliminate paper-based submission of approval cases.

President for promotion of virtual education in Pakistan

Date: November 19, 2021 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: The Nation, Source 3: Daily Times

While speaking to a delegation of Digital Cooperation Organization (DCO), President Dr Arif Alvi stressed on the promotion of virtual education in Pakistan and called for steps to increase the number of graduates of information technology.

Prime Minister launches digital service for overseas Pakistanis

Date: November 19, 2021 – Source 1: Radio Pakistan (RP), Source 2: Dawn

Prime Minister Imran Khan launched the pilot phase of the Digital Power of Attorney service for overseas Pakistanis. The digital solution introduced by the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) offering overseas Pakistanis access to a digital platform for their legal needs.

Covid-19 sparks e-commerce boom in Pakistan

Date: November 21, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

Curbs on physical movement during lockdown under the Covid-19 pandemic rules have significantly bolstered the growth of e-commerce and online payments in Pakistan. Public and private sector institutions and market players have incorporated digital methods of doing business.

Pakistan, DCO agree to enhance cooperation in information technology

Date: November 22, 2021 – Source: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan and the Digital Cooperation Organization (DCO) formally agreed to enhance cooperation and collaboration in information technology and telecommunications initiatives.

Digitalization to boost Pakistan’s economy

Date: November 25, 2021 – Source 1: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), Source 2: Express Tribune

According to a Google-commissioned report, digital transformation can help Pakistan unlock up to Rs9.7 trillion, about 19 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in annual economic value by 2030.

Prime Minister underlines mobile operators’ role in Pakistan’s economic growth

Date: November 25, 2021 – Source: Dawn

Prime Minister Imran Khan appreciated the role of telecommunication operators in the economic growth and increasing digital connectivity in Pakistan under the federal government’s Digital Pakistan initiative.

Federal Bureau of Revenue against abolishing FED on Pakistan’s telecommunication sector

Date: November 28, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

The Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR) challenged in the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) the Sindh High Court’s (SHC) judgement of striking down the federal excise duty (FED) of Rs0.75 on every phone call of over five-minute duration and declaring the levy against the Constitution.

Trends in e-commerce in Pakistan

Date: November 29, 2021 – Source: Dawn

For e-commerce to grow in Pakistan, the challenges to solve are clear – further digitize payments, improve last-mile logistics and better regulate to protect customers and empower them to claim refunds and return products.

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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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