For Immediate Release
Lahore, December 22, 2012: The approval of controversial Fair Trial Bill authorizes the state to intercept private communications to thwart acts of terrorism. Digital Rights Foundation observes that this act is an official intrusion on privacy of the people of Pakistan.
According to news reports, the government argues that: “existing laws neither comprehensively provide for nor specifically regulate use of advanced and modern investigative techniques such as covert surveillance and human intelligence, property interference, wire tapping and communication interception that are used extensively in other countries, including the US, the UK and India”
Digital Rights Foundation stands firm with the country’s civil society and internet users, who have been opposing this bill since its inception. DRF has learnt that although the government has taken other political stakeholders’ input to this bill, it has excluded any expressions of concern from civil society activists and organisations.
This bill paves way for the state to tap telephonic and online communications. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf said that the bill’s purpose is to eliminate terrorism from the country: “The bill will be useful to send a message to terrorists that the country was united against them. The bill will protect the ordinary citizen from terrorists.”
But Mr. Prime Minister failed to mention that this bill applies to every citizen of Pakistan except the members of Parliament and Provincial Assemblies (according to the last available draft – approved bill is not available yet). This sends a strongly controversial message to the common citizen by putting the assembly members above the law.
This Act will also work for the state to curb the freedom of speech of activists and human rights defenders in the name of the war against terrorism while keeping its own ministers from any sort of probing which is completely against equality of all citizens of a country.
DRF expresses its grave concern over this bill, which is a blunt attack on the privacy of the country’s netizens, and condemns government’s approach of exclusion of Pakistan’s civil society. If the Prime Minister wishes to unite the country behind this legislative measures, the first step is to include citizens’ views in the process.