NA approves Cybercrime Bill

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Terrorism, hacking, electronic forgery & fraud, child pornography declared punishable offences

Zahid Chaudhary

Islamabad—The National Assembly on Wednesday passed the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill to curb cyber-related crimes.
Minister of State for Information Technology Anusha Rehman moved the bill and it was approved by the House without much criticism from the opposition parties as most of their amendments were accommodated in it after deliberations at the level of relevant standing committee.
The bill has been criticized by the IT industry and the civil society for what they said ‘curbing human rights and giving overreaching powers to law enforcement agencies. According to the bill, hacking as well as interference with data and information systems, specialized cyber related electronic forgery and electronic fraud, cyber terrorism (electronic or cyber attack on the critical information infrastructure), unauthorized interception conducted by civilians, use of malicious code viruses, glorification of an offence, hate speech, identity theft etc have been declared punishable offences.
According to clause 10 about cyber terrorism, anyone advancing religious, ethnic or sectarian discord or involved in creating a sense of fear, panic or insecurity in the government or the public shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to fourteen years or with fine up to fifty million rupees or with both. For the glorification of an offense and hate speech, the bill envisages imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years or with fine up to ten million rupees or with both. The bill also envisages punishment both jail and fine for those who intentionally and publicly exhibits or displays any false information about the reputation or privacy of a person.
The federal government under the bill may establish or designate a law enforcement agency investigation of offences under this act. The authorized officer will have the powers to access and inspect the operation of any specified information system. Under the bill, the government on receipt of request from any foreign country can extend cooperation for the purposes of investigations or proceedings concerning offences related to information systems and electronic communication or for collection of evidence in electronic form.
The bill authorized the government to constitute one or more computer emergency response teams to respond to any threat or attack on any critical infrastructure information systems or critical infrastructure data or widespread attack on information systems in Pakistan. According to the statement of objects and reasons, the legislation has been made to address the sophisticated online threats of the 21st century cyber age. The legislation provides new investigative powers hitherto unavailable such as search and seizure of digital forensic evidences using technological means and other enabling powers to effectively investigate cyber crimes cases. The bill also includes specific safeguards to protect the privacy of citizens and avoid abuse of the exercise of these powers.
The statement reads that the legislation will help effectively prevent cyber crimes and shall also contribute to the national security of the nation whilst providing and enabling a secure environment for investment in IT, e-commerce and e-payments. It said that the bill shall also afford protection to citizens facing threats from cyber criminals both at home and abroad. Minister of State for Information Technology Anusha Rehman thanked all the political parties for supporting the legislation and giving the necessary inputs to make it effective and meet the requirements of modern day.

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