Archives for July 2016

July 28, 2016 - Comments Off on Despite Amendments proposed by the Senate, PECB continues to pose a threat to the fundamental rights of citizens

Despite Amendments proposed by the Senate, PECB continues to pose a threat to the fundamental rights of citizens

For Immediate Release:

Islamabad, 28 July 2016: Amendments proposed by Senate’s Standing Committee on IT and Telecommunications have failed to address key concerns regarding human rights violations raised by various civil society stakeholders. Civil Rights organisations that engaged with the senate committee on the matter, express concerns about the draft of Pakistan Electronic Crime Bill,2016, approved by the Senate Standing Committee on IT and Telecommunication.

Civil rights and industry stakeholders have engaged with the legislators since mid 2015, when this bill was first tabled in the National Assembly. Stakeholders have provided detailed inputs and recommendations, highlighting the potential human rights violations and suggesting alternates in line with constitutional provisions and international best practices. However, the Ministry of IT, has repeatedly dismissed these concerns.

The continued engagement with the civil society and other stakeholders has been possible due to the involvement of some parliamentarians, to whom we remain grateful. However, the most recent set of amendments is disheartening, as it continues to ignore the fundamental concerns raised during the consultations. We feel that the engagement and handwork of the stakeholders is being set aside to push through a law that is contradictory to constitutional rights, international best practices and lacks adequate safeguards and oversight to protect the citizens of Pakistan.

On the contrary, newer and harsher amendments have been added in the approved version. We are particularly concerned by the continued inclusion of Section 34, the dilution of real time surveillance processes that contradicts the process defined in Investigation for Fair Trial Act, the subjective description of hate speech and inclusion of an amendment that allows unfettered power to the Federal Investigation Agency, to generate and submit forensic evidence, instead of relying on an independent body as earlier recommended.

We would like to point out that all the meetings outlined by the committee, along with their given deadlines, were honoured by the civil society. We are deeply disturbed and alarmed that despite our best efforts the bill continues to incorporate provisions that pose a threat to our fundamental rights.

If passed in its current form the bill would be detrimental to civil liberties in Pakistan. It will allow unfettered power to law enforcement agencies and an executive authority to crackdown and criminalize free speech online.

As this approved version goes to the Senate for discussion, we urge Senators to stand up for our civil liberties enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan and take into consider the amendments suggested by the relevant stakeholders, for the sake of continuation of the democratic process.


Digital Rights Foundation

Bolo Bhi

Bytes For all

Media Matters for Democracy

Freedom Network


Courting The Law

NexDegree (Private) Ltd

Tahira Abdullah - Activist

Jibran Nasir – Activist

Never Forget Pakistan

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan

July 20, 2016 - Comments Off on Invasion of Privacy & The Murder of Qandeel Baloch

Invasion of Privacy & The Murder of Qandeel Baloch

On July 15 Qandeel Baloch was murdered by her brother, claiming that it was a matter of family ‘honour’. One of Pakistan’s most famous and outspoken social media stars, Ms. Baloch used social media platforms to express her life, where she would share her thoughts, opinions and visual media. Her posts would at times poked fun at male Pakistani public figures and celebrities, which were often an exposé of the “hypocrisies of a patriarchal society dominated by a narrow-minded, self-righteous moral police”, according to the the blog No Country For Bold Women. This self-righteousness, a part of public media and social media discourse in Pakistan, regards the right to privacy, to anonymity, as mere obstacles to getting the “truth” out, regardless of the very real consequences that it can have. By violating her right to privacy and broadcasting detailed personal information, without any understanding of what that could entail, a woman was killed - and there still no conversation about privacy in Pakistan.

The self-righteousness that killed Qandeel still persists in the wake of her death, however, and thus compels us to question the facilitating factors at play - not only does the murder continue to be remarked upon with heavy victim-blaming sentiments, there are opinions that have voiced support for her murderer, and against her “lifestyle”. These remain, for the most part, unchallenged in the media. These include statements by senior commentators such as Haroon Rashid at Dunya News and Shahid Masood at ARY, among others, both of whose statements appear to blame her for her own murder; politicians such as Fauzia Kasuri of PTI, who had condemned her death but made misogynistic statements about her lifestyle, and that she required ‘psychological counselling’. Fauzia Kasuri and a few others have since deleted their statements on social media platforms, but there exist receipts on blogs such as No Country For Bold Women.

The constant refrain in the wake of Qandeel Baloch’s death has been that while it was her brother killed her, the media and Pakistani society have her blood on their hands - this is not an unfounded opinion. The provocative and often adversarial nature of the media in Pakistan has often blurred the line between what is in the public interest, and what conforms to journalistic ethics, for the sake of greater viewer or readership figures. The public and the media can be fickle in regards to celebrity, regardless of geography, often looking to break down figures that they may have celebrated or reported on in the past, by uncovering and broadcasting personal information that can put them at risk. This isdangerous enough in the wrong circumstances.The socially conservative and patriarchal nature of Pakistani society ensures that anyone that publicly declares themselves to be feminist and progressive, and who point out the hypocrisies of said society, will find themselves fearing for their lives, without protection from the state, even when they have requested said protection. The lack of proper measures for the right to - and the protection of - personal privacy, as well as a basic society-wide lack of understanding of the concept of privacy, played just as much a part in Qandeel Baloch’s death as the flawed and fragile hyper-masculine concept of ‘honour’.

“Qandeel’s Cinderella Story: She is not a Baloch her real name is Fouzia Azeem she is dishonouring Baloch people”. This tweet, which since has been deleted, was by Hamir Mir, an influential veteran journalist with Geo News in Pakistan. This lapse in journalism ethics particularly galling as being a veteran journalist, Mr. Mir has found himself in danger on a number of occasions for his reportage and commentary, and should have understood the necessity of anonymity and safeguarding the privacy of an individual. By revealing her real name, it highlighted a disturbing lapse of journalistic ethics, and opened her up to greater risk of attack.

In the days leading up to her death, a man claiming to be an ex-husband approached the media, revealing details about their marriage and child. Ms. Baloch confirmed the marriage, and went on to explain that it was an abusive situation that she had to leave. Furthermore a politician in Dera Gazi Khan sent her a legal order, “demanding that she apologise for ‘bringing shame’ to the Baloch race, stop using Baloch as her surname and pay him Rs. 50 million [...] otherwise, strict action will be taken against you." This led to death threats that prompted her to seek protection from the government, to no end, caused her to make the decision to leave Pakistan after Eid-ul-Fitr, with her parents.

This cannot and should not be placed solely on the shoulders of one journalist, however, but a wider media culture: on June 23, Daily Pakistan ran a profile on its website (still available at the time of writing), that carried had a scanned image of her Pakistani passport, with her details readily available and easily exploited. Further to this, an Urdu-language piece by Siasat TV extensively exploited Qandeel’s private life for their viewers - as with the Dunya article, this too is still readily available online today.

These examples of violations of Qandeel Baloch’s privacy and anonymity have led to the creation of No Country For Bold Women: a blog that has recorded these and other examples of invasion of privacy, of victim blaming, before and after her murder, so that evidence is kept for posterity, even after the originals have been erased. When one understands the the social context in Pakistan, the broadcasting of her personal information by the media - already a violation of journalistic ethics and objectivity, takes on a more horrific tone, as that violation of privacy can and did lead directly to her death at the hands of her brother, toxic masculinity, and the predatory media.

The damage has been done. The question becomes, however: what can and must be done in the wake of Qandeel Baloch’s murder?

The media often regards itself as a valuable part of a nation’s fabric, productively contributing to the social ecosystem. A free press is rightly a vital part of democratic discourse, but a feral press that decides to dictate or echo questionable morality does not aid that discourse. Freedom of the press does not necessarily mean freedom from consequences of the outcome. We are not calling for the muzzling of the media, but there must be accountability. There must be a sea-change in the way that journalistic ethics – or an apparent lack thereof – are adhered to in Pakistan.

PS: The examples of violations of privacy, victim-blaming, and the interviews referred to in the post can be found at the No Country For Bold Women blog.

July 16, 2016 - Comments Off on Qandeel Baloch Murdered – Nation’s ‘ghairat’ strikes again

Qandeel Baloch Murdered – Nation’s ‘ghairat’ strikes again

Its our Saturday – after an exhausting week of work, we deserve a break. A break from the world, a break from the bullshit that surrounds the world we find ourselves in. And to be completely honest it was going all serenely and as planned – the doing nothing that is – till we opened Facebook to find out that Qandeel Baloch has been killed.

And now we’re enraged.

We can’t write enough about how sad, shocked and enraged we are. Our bodies shiver from a mix of these emotions and we can’t physically vocalize them. Why? Because the eternal patriarchy that upholds the Pakistani society is rejoicing in Qandeel’s murder.

And it has so many names and forms: the celebration is happening on cell phones held, through tweets and Facebook posts, in the kitchen where rotis are being made, in darkened rooms littered with tissues and dirty rags, in weekend gatherings of testosterone – its everywhere.

And we as an organization are repulsed. Qandeel Baloch, a girl in her twenties, a survivor of an abusive marriage, a mother of a child – and a woman who was taking charge of sexuality has been murdered. It doesn’t matter who killed her, because let’s be honest – we as a nation killed her.

Yes! Me and you, us – we killed her and many others who die every single day in Pakistan. The approximately one thousand girls who die every year in the name of honor. And now while every news media outlet tries to capitalize on her death, while members of this society raise her son to hate her mother’s memory – we as citizens won’t be held accountable. We killed her.

Never forget. All of us who are happy in her death, who called her names in public but jerked off to her our rooms – we killed her. We killed her slowly but surely. And we aren’t sorry, we won’t be sorry, we will celebrate. This me and you – we have so many forms. We are mullahs who sleazed up to girls and boys whilst stroking our beards. We are the boys and men who police women 24/7, we are the girls and women who call Qandeel a bitch, a slut, a whore. We are the same bunch who say things like “if that girl was killed in the name of honour, she probably deserved it”.

Qandeel Baloch – was, is and now never will be the ‘Pakistani Kim Kardashian’. She did not come from the bourgeois elite, she was not educated in the best schools, she did not have the best paid PR team in the world marketing her, and she most definitely did not have the one of the best security detail surrounding her.

Qandeel was a woman who chose to share her life on social media despite of us, she chose to be in-charge of sexuality and she refused to be ashamed for her being. She was defiant and courageous, she claimed online spaces and offline spaces – she made sure that her presence was felt and that she was heard. And we Pakistani loved her for it! This was why we followed her, debated her, invited her on talk shows, took selfies with her. We loved to hate her and now we’ve done the best we could. We couldn’t all collectively **** her, so we helped kill her.

It’s all good though, our conscience won’t be too burdened by this killing. We’ll resort to the Quran, the Mullahs, our Ghairat to justify her killing and many others to come. We are sure about this, because this is exactly what we’ve done to justify all the other honor killings that take place in this country every year. And we as nation hope to one day reach a place where we will have killed every defiant woman and minority before they have even managed taken their first breathe.

This post was authored by Ushbah Al-Ain

July 02, 2016 - Comments Off on Day one of the Senate’s deliberation on PECB

Day one of the Senate’s deliberation on PECB

A two day meeting took place on Wednesday and Thursday i.e. June 29-30 respectively where the Senate Sub-Committee overlooking the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill 2016 deliberated with civil society actors, social media activists and internet service providers, on the many issues within the draft.

This post is the first of a two part series on the proceedings of the meeting.

On Wednesday, the parliamentary panel looked into amending the different clauses that will hurt the cause of human rights in Pakistan. Freedom of expression, social media and the different punishments that are to be meted out were put on the table.

Osman Saifullah Khan chaired the meeting which was also attended by Digital Rights Foundation Executive Director Nighat Dad.

The problem of there being no balance was brought up during the meeting. A multitude of sections were discussed during the meeting and the stakeholders present gave their input as to what should be changed and what should be omitted.

Senator Farhatullah Babar who was also present on the occasion said that the bill required more clarity. He questioned the impact that the bill would have on the flow of information and freedom of expression. He also highlighted that data protection and safeguards to personal data are an issue that needs to be remedied.

The committee placed under consideration Section 19 which talks about offences against the dignity of the natural person.

NayaTel CEO Wahaj-u-Siraj was of the view that other laws already deal with this issue and this clause should be omitted from the bill. He also said that the clause could be used to abuse power and curb freedom on social media. The committee said that the proposed punishment for the section i.e. fine and imprisonment, also needed to be revisited.

Senator Mohsin Khan Leghari said that citizens also needed protection and the bill was failing to provide. It. Senator Shibli Faraz highlighted the ignorance that is prevalent in Pakistan and said that the laws need to be developed in a manner so that they could benefit the average Pakistani.

While the committee said that the clause should be kept because it would play an important role, they also acknowledged that it needed major amendments before it could be allowed to go through.

The committee also looked into Section 22 which has to do with spamming. It was observed that laws against spamming exist in many countries, however, it should not be criminalized.

Here Nighat Dad pointed out that the bill had no protection for whistle blowers or those who leaked information with public interest in their mind. The FIA official present was adamant that anyone giving out information was committing a crime, irrespective of their intent. Officials responded to a question by Babar by saying that the spamming had to do with commercial and marketing spamming and not unsolicited communication.

They advised that the imprisonment should be removed, however, the fine penalty should be retained. During the next meeting, a comparison of EU and Singaporean law will also be brought to the table to see what improvements can be made to the PECB.

For Section 21, which deals with cyber stalking, the committee recommended that the content of the bill be tightened for better clarity.

July 02, 2016 - Comments Off on PTA powers on censorship, Data Protection and Privacy become focal point on Second day of PECB consultation at Senate

PTA powers on censorship, Data Protection and Privacy become focal point on Second day of PECB consultation at Senate

The meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology’s Sub-Committee on the PECB continued on Thursday, June 30 and was rife with discussion on data.

The problems pertaining to data sharing and data protection took centre stage with all stakeholders trying to come to consensus as to what should be done. The question of whether the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and PEC itself require the powers that are being allotted to them was also brought up.

Once again, Osman Saifullah Khan took his position as the chair and was joined by other senators at the session.

Section 39, which has to do with international cooperation was brought up during the meeting. This section allowed the government to share information with spy agencies and foreign governments.

Senator Farhatullah Babar said that the section was flawed and made him feel vulnerable. He questioned why the government could provide his information and details to any country or agency without any safeguards in place to ensure that the data was not mishandled or misused.

He also asked what guarantee there was to ensure that the investigation officer would not use the data to manipulate, harass or extort another person.

The Digital Rights Foundation proposes that this section needs rules and procedures for its implementation. It should not be the prerogative of the Pakistani government to share any information with another government without due processes.

Section 38, which has to do with confidentiality of information, also came under discussion. The committee pointed out that the ministry needed to ensure that the seized item and their data remained protected.

The officials present said that a proper channel would be used to share data under international cooperation law. The blanket authority being granted to the PTA as per section 29 was questioned by both the civil society and the committee members.

Civil society said that the clause should be deleted because of the privacy violation of the entire internet users in Pakistan. However, Senator Osman Saifullah said that in a country like Pakistan this is not possible and we need to look for a middle ground solution.

In response to that, Senator Farhatullah Babar mentioned that if ISPs need to retain internet users data they need to include judicial oversight and only retain data of criminals and terrorists once they have reasonable suspicions.

Even to retain data for those criminals they need a judicial warrant and follow procedure mentioned in the Fair Trial Act. Dad also pointed out that while larger ISPs could afford the cost of retaining so much data, smaller ISPs would not be able to do so. Ultimately, the burden of that cost will be thrown to the average user who will end up paying a lot more for their online presence.

As an advocate of privacy our organization is of the view that there is no evidence to support the assertion that data retention leads to a decrease in terrorist activities.

Research has demonstrated that many countries have rejected data retention, including Austria, Belgium, Greece, Sweden, Germany, Bulgaria etc. Serious crimes continue to exist in these countries, and they continue to tackle them without data retention that hurts civil liberties. This clause should be omitted as it violates the right to privacy.

Section 34, which gives powers to PTA to block anything they want, also came under discussion. For a little background readers should know that PTA’s ability to block content at will is already being challenged in court.

The civil society present said that it should be removed but some of the senators said that deletion is not a proper solution and some powers should exist. They proposed that these powers be not added to this legislation and instead the PTA act should be amended to include these powers.

However, this solution is facing resistance because of the lengthy process involved.

Members of the civil society also asked that Section 10 be removed from the bill. The section has to do with cyber terrorism.

Dad said that there is no need for this section when the entire section already exists in the Anti Terrorism Act 1997 and the section is 11 W.

Apart from this it was also mentioned that this section mentions a 14 year penalty, whereas the ATA only mentions 6 months. So an offline act of terrorism, which includes many things, only 6 months are mentioned but for online terrorism act they are mentioning 14 years of imprisonment.

The reason for pointing this out was to highlight that there is a replicability between laws and there is a lack of consistency. Why can’t they implement existing legislation instead of making new ones, Dad questioned.

Dad further said that amendments need to be made to existing legislation to include new provisions that are needed - there is no agreed definition of cyber terrorism globally, she explained and further asked how it would be defined in Pakistan.

It is also disheartening that repetitions and provisions that are glaring examples of what should be removed from the bill are being allowed to only go through 'amendments' by the sub-committee. Despite the civil society stakeholders having submitted their recommendations and highlighting how this law could backfire later, redrafting has been restricted to actions that are simply not enough.

The speculations that civil society actors were not prepared and didn't submit formulations is incorrect. Farieha Aziz from Bolo Bhi read out many alternative formulations of clauses at the meetings.
DRF believes that civil liberties should not a be a casualty in the name of security and the fight against terrorism under such legislations. Pakistan should set a good precedent by enacting a cyber crime law that is a balance between security and human rights