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. 4, No. 3 March 2023 Edition

Produced by Freedom Network –

SECTION 1: Internet and digital policies and regulations

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

Pakistan’s telecommunication operators ask PTA for moratorium on service quality

Date: March 1, 2023 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: Business Recorder (BR)

Pakistan’s cellular mobile operators (CMOs) demanded a moratorium on quality-of-service, roll out obligations, Universal Service Fund (USF) payments and research and development fund reduction from two percent to one per cent amid deterioration in service quality of voice calls across the country.

Parliament body concerned over poor cellular service across Pakistan

Date: March 14, 2023 – Source: The News

The National Assembly Standing Committee on Information Technology expressed concern over poor service quality and weak signal problems of cellular mobile operators (CMOs) across Pakistan.

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

Digital dreams for a divided electorate

Date: March 4, 2023 – Source: The News

Digital dreaming will need to transform into the digital outcomes that attract and influence voters and audience at a time when the stakes for Pakistan, with the impending electoral season, could not be higher.

Innovation and technology to improve the lives and rights of women in Pakistan

Date: March 8, 2023 – Source: United Nations Population Fund (UNFP)

Innovation and technology have the potential to open new doors for empowerment of women and other marginalized groups in Pakistan. Through use of technology and digital innovations, women should realize their sexual and reproductive rights, address harmful gender norms and achieve equality.

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

Google agrees to remove unlicensed micro-lending applications

Date: March 1, 2023 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The News, Source 3: Business Recorder (BR)

The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) announced that Google had agreed to ban all non-licensed micro-lending applications in Pakistan. Most of these applications were involved in cyber fraud and were being operated from outside the country.

NADRA rolls out data protection service for Pakistani citizens

Date: March 3, 2023 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The News, Source 3: Express Tribune

The National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) rolled out its ‘Ijazat Aap Ki’ service, an initiative that puts citizens in charge of their personal data. The service will enable citizens to give their consent before verification of CNIC, ensuring their personal data remains protected and secure.

Amid Pakistan’s growing political and economic turmoil, risks to curb on digital freedoms grow

Date: March 6, 2023 – Source: Atlantic Council (AC)

As conflicts between the federal government and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) sharpens ahead of national and provincial elections, curbs on expression and disruptions to the internet, especially platforms like YouTube, Twitter, WhatsApp, and Facebook, cannot be ruled out.

Growing importance of cyber security in Pakistan

Date: March 17, 2023 – Source: Digital Pakistan (DP)

As Pakistan continues to embrace the digital age, cyber security has become a pressing concern. The country faces an increased risk of cyber threats and attacks. The country must use its talent pool of tech-savvy professionals to tap into the growing global cyber security industry.

Pakistani banks fighting laundering and terror financing via block-chain technology

Date: March 17, 2023 – Source: Digital Pakistan (DP)

The launch of block-chain technology in Pakistan’s banking sector is a significant step towards making the country’s financial sector more secure and transparent. Banking institutions continue to fight money laundering, cyber fraud and terror financing through such developments.

Government proposes task force to ‘check’ anti-army campaign on social media

Date: March 24, 2023 – Source: Dawn

The federal government is mulling forming a special task force to check social media campaigns against the armed forces. The task force will comprise officers from the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), and other agencies.

Pakistan’s Orwellian schemes

Date: March 25, 2023 – Source: Dawn

The government-proposed task force to police social media for ‘anti-army’ content is a bad idea, simply because such vague schemes very much have the potential to be misused, and can end up as tools to crack down further on free speech in Pakistan.

Law to penalize maligning of armed forces on the cards in Pakistan

Date: March 25, 2023 – Source: The News

The federal government decided to introduce stringent laws to apprehend people trying to malign and defame the armed forces on social media platforms. The draft of the proposed law would be placed in the National Assembly for deliberation.

Police authorities ‘clueless’ as court seeks report on whereabouts of PTI social media handler

Date: March 28, 2023 – Source: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

The Rawalpindi bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC) sought a report from the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) about the whereabouts of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) social media handler and activist Azhar Moshwani, as police authorities have been ‘clueless’ despite registration of an abduction case.

Pakistani social media activist gets pre-arrest bail, another sent to jail on remand

Date: March 28, 2023 – Source: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

An additional district judge in Peshawar accepted the application of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) social media activist Ikram Khatana for pre-arrest bail. Meanwhile, another social media activist, Azhar Ali, was sent to prison on a 14-day remand.

Federal Investigation Agency denies having PTI social media head in custody

Date: March 29, 2023 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The Nation

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) denied having Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) social media head and activist Azhar Mashwani in custody in a report submitted to the Rawalpindi bench of Lahore High Court (LHC).

SECTION 4: Digitalization

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

Saudi investor launches $100 million technology house in Pakistan

Date: March 9, 2023 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: The Nation, Source 3: Arab News

A Saudi technology company, owned by Prince Fahad bin Mansour Al-Saud, announced it will launch a technology house worth $100 million in Islamabad, aiming to forge partnerships with information technology (IT) companies and digital entrepreneurs.


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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