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The time is not far when all 30 million internet users in Pakistan would be

punishable with jail time might not be very far away, As the Electronic Crime Bill
2015 is approved by the National Assembly.
The term cyber crime is used specifically for a crime taking place in the online
world. It does not at all mean a crime which takes place with the help of technology,
as the PEC 2015 implies. By that definition, kidnapping will also be a crime
punishable under the PEC

While the stated objective of the bill is to counter ICT driven crimes in the
country, but most of the provisions aim at shutting down the free
exchange of expression and opinion on the internet. The bill must be
redrafted explicitly to address crimes and not criminalise expression and
associated fundamental rights.
Further, several provisions of the legislation have vague, ambiguous and
broad words which have been drafted loosely leaving too much room for
interpretation. In an environment where the rule of law is as such
compromised such legislations will pave the way for rights abuse. These
complications will ultimately result in backlogs of cases adding to the
strain of trial courts as well as the apex court. Similarly, the complex and
ambiguous language would also create great difficulties for the common
person using the internet as there is an uncertainty of what acts would
constitute an offence.
For instance, the bill in Section 2 talks about misuse of digital gadgets and
unauthorized access to information under Sections 3 to 8. Section 9
criminalises glorification of crime and Section 10 declares cyberterrorism as an offence. Offences against dignity and modesty of natural
persons and minor under sections 18 and 19, as well as cyber-stalking
and spoofing under sections 21 and 23, are also vague. None of these
terms have been clearly defined and as a result can be interpreted to
include many things and, and anything should the State choose to
criminalise a particular act or person.
More particularly, the bill criminalises the production, distribution and use
of encryption technology under Sections 13 and 16. This provision
compromises freedom of expression and privacy of individuals. Especially
when commenting on political, religious and social issues that may be

controversial, persons need the comfort of anonymity and encryption.


Whistle-blowers, human rights defenders, and journalists in Pakistan as
such work in very dangerous and challenging circumstances, by denying
them access to encryption, their data and sources would become
vulnerable and they may be subjected to surveillance. Section 13 also
criminalizes the making, obtaining or supplying of devices for use in an
offence. In essence, this prevents and penalizes programmers, coders and
techies assisting in the creation of encryption tools, which can have a
stifling effect on secure communication for those dealing with
controversial issues in their profession.
Sections 3 to 8 of this bill criminalize unauthorized access to
information and the vague drafting of these sections make them highly
susceptible to broad interpretation. These provisions will impede the work
of civil society as well as journalists particularly working on accountability
issues in Pakistan.
Similarly, Section 10 of the Bill provides, Whoever commits or threatens
to commit any of the offences under sections 6, 7, 8 or 9, where the
commission or threat is with the intent to: (a) coerce, intimidate, create a
sense of fear, panic or insecurity in the government or the public or a
section of the public or community or sect or create a sense of fear or
insecurity in society; or (b) advance inter-faith, sectarian or ethnic
hatred. This would essentially mean that dissent and freedom of
assembly and association online could be targeted in the name of public
order. In an age where HRDs and journalists are increasingly using the
internet and social media for rights promotion, dissemination of
information and advocacy, their legitimate work and expression may be
construed as threatening order and creating chaos.
Furthermore, Section 34 provides for arbitrary blocking and removal of
the content which violates the right to information, as well as freedom of
expression of persons by promoting censorship. This is in direct violation
of international as well as constitutional guarantees. This section provides
the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), an executive body
blanket powers when it comes to blocking and removing content. This
replaces judicial action with executive decision thereby preventing
scrutiny and opportunity for redressal.

On the other hand, Section 39(2) allows the federal government to


transfer citizens data collected in forms of audio, video, images, text, or
any digital format to foreign governments or agencies without seeking
prior permission from a judicial authority in the name of international
cooperation. This violates the right to privacy of persons and prevents
them from having recourse. Although, such practice is currently exercised
by the government of Pakistan, however, approval of the said bill (with its
current text) will give this act legitimacy.
Finally, in addition to Section 45, which provides for broad punitive
measures, many provisions of the bill heighten punishment for supposed
acts of crime which may extend up to 14 years of imprisonment and 50
Million Rupees in fines. Such harsh punishments violate the rule of
proportionality and will have a chilling effect on rights and freedoms.