Archives for August 2018

August 16, 2018 - Comments Off on Press Release For Hamara Internet App

Press Release For Hamara Internet App


Digital Rights Foundation will be releasing it’s one-of-a-kind app, “Hamara Internet”, on the occasion of our nation’s Independence Day, this  August 14th. The app will be available for downloading on the Google App store at 12 am.

The objece of the app is to provide access to information to all Pakistanis regarding the reporting mechanisms in place in case of cyber harassment. The app provides tips and tidbits for online safety to its users and also provides a directory for relevant personnel and contact information of LEAs and organisations such as the FIA, PTA, PCSW and any other relevant resources available for the public. The purpose that the Digital Rights Foundation envisions for the app is to create awareness regarding cyber harassment and through the app educate individuals regarding the law and the precautionary measures they can opt for in case they encounter cyber harassment.

Nighat Dad, the Executive Director of Digital Rights Foundation notes that “this application is a step towards employing technology to address the issue of online harassment by making resources accessible through an easy-to-use app and to make it available in both Urdu and English.” She went on to add, “the tech sector in Pakistan has failed to tackle issues on the internet in an effective and inclusive manner--we hope this app will be the stepping stone for more initiatives.”

Digital Rights Foundation is a registered research-based advocacy non-governmental organization in Pakistan. Founded by Nighat Dad in 2012, DRF focuses on ICTs to support human rights, inclusiveness, democratic processes, and digital governance. DRF works on issues of online free speech, privacy, data protection and online violence against women.

Contact Person:

Seerat Khan


August 16, 2018 - Comments Off on July 2018 – Digital Rights Foundation releases Hamara Internet application

July 2018 – Digital Rights Foundation releases Hamara Internet application


Digital Rights Foundation released it’s one-of-a-kind app, “Hamara Internet”. The purpose that the Digital Rights Foundation envisions for this application is to create awareness regarding cyber harassment and educate individuals regarding the law and the precautionary measures they can opt for in case they encounter cyber harassment. The application provides tips and tidbits for online safety to its users and also provides a directory for relevant personnel and contact information of LEAs and organisations such as the FIA, PTA, PCSW and any other relevant resources available for the public. Click here for the link to the application.

Election Monitoring on Social Media

If the 2013 elections introduced digital spaces to the electorate, the 2018 elections were the year digital devices and social media campaigning were at the forefront of electioneering. The team at Digital Rights Foundation was working hard to track issues of technologies in the elections, from use of technologies by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to the use of social media by political parties. Watch this space as DRF completes its comprehensive report on elections, gender and the internet.

Awareness Raising Sessions with Women Voters


This election season DRF along with its partners Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability conducted a series of 5 sessions with women from varied cross-sections of our society, especially those from the working class. The sessions were conducted with domestic and factory workers from Kot Lakhpat, Youhanabad, Ahmed Town,  Defence and Sundar Industrial Estate. The session covered the processes of CNIC registration, vote registration and the need and importance of voting as well as a general overview of why elections are required in the first place. More than 100 women received these awareness raising sessions.

Seminar on Protecting and Promoting the Electoral Rights of Women


Digital Rights Foundation, along with its partner Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability, held a seminar in Lahore on ‘Protecting and Promoting the Electoral Rights of Women’ on the 21st of July 2018.  The seminars focus was to promote women’s participation in the upcoming general elections and also discuss the challenges women face in politics in Pakistan. Fake news and its impact on hate speech and freedom of expression were also discussed in detail in the seminar in their relation to the electoral process.

Election Day Observation

DRF and its partner Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability handpicked 25 women observers to observe the general elections of 2018 in terms of inclusivity for women, people with disability and transgender people. DRF covered polling stations in nine constituencies in total which were NA 135, NA 134, NA 133, NA 132, NA 131, NA 130, NA 129, NA 126 and NA 125. The observers observed 25 polling stations and the entire polling station from 8 am till 6 pm in which they also saw the proceedings of the political parties and also interviewed voters. Read more..

Observers for General Elections 2018

Observers for General Elections 2018

Observership of Election Campaign

DRF with its partner Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability attended 16 corner meetings/jalsas/rallies of different political parties of the country. The team observed the campaigning process of 8 women candidates and 8 national assembly candidates to see how inclusive these public spaces and these meetings are for women.

DRF and Bolo Bhi called for digital accessibility during General Elections 2018

Digital Rights Foundation and Bolo Bhi released a press statement calling the the caretaker government of Pakistan to ensure mobile and digital accessibility, protection of freedom of speech, and the right to association as citizens exercise their democratic and civic duties on July 25, 2018. Read more...

DRF condemns the online attacks against Asma Sherazi

Digital Rights Foundation and Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights condemns the social media attacks against Asma Shirazi, a seasoned journalist with years of service to the electronic media, and extends its unfettered support to her. Ms. Shirazi is made victim of online harassment based on a video where she is heard informing former Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif of reasons why his previously recorded interview will not be aired, during a telephonic conversation while he is in-flight from Abu Dhabi to Lahore. Read the full statement, here

Network of women journalist continue to share articles and blogs


Members of DRF's Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights continued to share articles and blogs on digital rights issues which can be found on the Hamara Internet website here. This is part of DRF's initiative to record women journalists' voices, particularly relating to digital rights and security issues.

As July was the month the General Elections of Pakistan were scheduled, Network members wrote extensively on the issues faced by politicians on digital media, online harassment of women journalists, the use of social media platforms for election campaigning and the freedom of speech vs hate speech conundrum.

Workshop on online safety and activism at the Women’s Collective, July 2nd, 2018


DRF was invited to be part of the Women's Collective Summer Internship Program 2018. The DRF team delivered a workshop on digital security and safety with reference to issues of harassment and online participation.

Workshop for Lawyers on Digital Rights

On July 4th 2018, DRF conducted a workshop which was held for Lawyers in Lahore, focusing on creating awareness about the legal landscape that governs digital platforms. Around 34 lawyers attended the comprehensive training session, where specifically designed toolkits was given to lawyers to guide them on how they can make online spaces safe for themselves by adopting various tools and resources available to them.

Soon  Soon





Online Safe Spaces for Journalists at Superior University

DRF held a session at Superior University with students of Mass Communication on July 12th 2018. Around 65 students attended the awareness raising session where they were encouraged to keep themselves secure online. In the second half of the session they were given digital security training and were also provided with CDs, which included security toolkits and a guidebook on digital security.


Workshop at FMH College of Medicine & Dentistry


DRF conducted a workshop on harassment, digital rights, gender and online feminisms at FMH College of Medicine & Dentistry for students on 26th July 2018. The discussion was participatory and rich in nature, with students bringing up issues of contemporary feminism.

Hamara Internet ‘Our Right to Safe Online Spaces’ session in Superior University


DRF along with it’s partners FNF conducted a session on data protection and privacy titled, ‘Our Right to Safe Online Spaces’ in Superior University with 129 students. The session focused on the need of a data protection law in Pakistan and how to tackle cyber harassment according to the existing legislation in the country.

Release of Urdu translation of Freedom on the Internet Report 2017

Digital Rights Foundation translated the Freedom on the Net 2017 (FOTN 2017) report in Urdu for wider readership. The translated report can be found here [PDF]. This translation of FOTN2017 was possible with the support of vpnMentor. VpnMentor was created in order to offer users a really honest, committed and helpful tool when navigating VPNs and web privacy.

Follow their work here:

Freedom House released the Freedom on the Net (FoTN) report for the year 2017 which assesses internet freedom in 65 countries, accounting for 87 percent of internet users worldwide. The report primarily focuses on developments that occurred between June 2016 and May 2017.

DRF gets featured in Harvard Cyberlaw Clinic’s blog

With support from the Cyberlaw Clinic, DRF submitted a policy brief to the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication while the initial drafting of the Personal Data Protection Bill was underway. The blog explains the importance of the bill and that through engagement with various stakeholders, there is hope of having an even more effective piece of legislation.

DRF at Decentralized Web Summit

Our ED Nighat Dad spoke at the the ‘Decentralized Web Summit’ at the panel titled "Stories from the Field—A View of the Internet from the Global South" where she talked about the impact of the first of it’s kind cyber harassment helpline and the implications of cyber harassment on women in Pakistan.

Nighat Dad’s interview gets featured on Hivos website

Hivos, an organization inspired by humanist values and founded in 1968, featured DRF’s Executive Director, Nighat Dad’s interview on their website. Ms. Dad talked about DRF’s work and the journey that led to the formation of this organization. She also shared the online security tips she uses to stay away from the trolls. To read the full story follow the link.

Cyber Harassment Helpline in report by RSF on ‘Online harassment of journalists: the trolls attack’

In a report, “Online harassment of journalists: the trolls attack”, Reporters sans frontières / Reporters Without Borders / RSF voices concern about the scale of a new threat to press freedom, the mass harassment of journalists online. To read more about the cyber harassment helpline and the findings of the report follow the link.


August 15, 2018 - Comments Off on State Vs Sarmad Liaquat

State Vs Sarmad Liaquat

The most recent judgement under Pakistan’s nascent cyber crimes statute, the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 (PECA), was delivered on the 10th of July, 2018 in the court of Judicial Magistrate Muhammad Aamir Raza Baitu (Lahore) against the accused, Sarmad Liaqat.


The Accusations


The challan form lists the relevant laws as Ss. 20 (1), 21 and 24 of PECA, to be read with Ss. 109 and 420 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). The same form lists brief facts of the case which are as follows:

Consequent upon inquiry No. 35/2017 dated 26/01/2017 initiated on the complaint of Mr. Qaisar Raza S/o Riaz Hussain, one Noman Ali illegally captured an offensive video of the complainant’s wife by affixing a camera in the window of their bathroom. This video was further sent  to a Mr. Sarmad Liaqat who blackmailed the complainant and his family via SMS and calls. On 22/02/2017, a NR3C team conducted a raid on the accused’s house, who was visiting the country from Saudi Arabia. A mobile phone and SIM were recovered and taken into possession by the FIA as per seizure memo which helped establish that harassing, threatening and blackmailing messages along with offensive data captured was sent through Whatsapp. During physical remand the accused disclosed that the pictures were captured by his relative Noman Ali and sent to him while he was in Saudi Arabia from where he sent the alleged blacking material to the complainant’s family. Efforts to arrest the second accused, Noman Ali, were not successful as he has absconded and was not recovered at the time of the judgment.


The Judgment


The judgement given by the Magistrate states that the prosecution established its case beyond a reasonable doubt and that penal provisions  Ss. 21 (offences against the modesty of natural person and minor) and 24 (cyberstalking) of PECA are applicable against the accused as has been proven through deposition of prosecution witnesses as well as documentary evidence. Interestingly, the evidence u/s 20 (1) of PECA i.e offences against the dignity of a person, read with s.109 of the PPC however, could not be established by the prosecution and are not applicable.


The quantum of punishment was set out as follows:

  1. i)             Under s.21 of PECA 2016, the convicted is sentenced with an imprisonment for 3 years
  2. ii)            Under s.24 of PECA 2016, the convicted is sentenced with an imprisonment

Benefit of s.382-B of the Cr. P.C is given to the convict whereby the sentences shall run concurrently.




Digital Rights Foundation welcomes that PECA is being employed to prosecute cases of online harassment and protect female complainants, however it is important to also critically analyze these judgments and access whether they constitute good law.

In this case, we noticed a myriad of discrepancies regarding  who the accused was, specifically how many people were considered complicit in the crimes and were booked under the relevant sections. Whether this confusion arose as a result of multiple typographical errors, a general lack of competency on the clerical level or genuine confusion on part of the FIA--it cannot be determined.

Furthermore, there was no mention of the age of the accused. This fact  is relevant as it determines the method and venue of the trial i.e under the full force of the law or, if he is a minor and below 18 years of age, as a juvenile offender (if so proven). No corresponding documentation such as his CNIC, birth certificate or family tree was attached, thus his age which was put down as 24 by his lawyer, which could not be confirmed. This remains a worrying element not just here but in all cases tried against defendants who lack resources to afford competent lawyers or unaware of the inner workings of the courts. The legal counsel in this case was not able to put forth the best possible defence, thus impeding the access to justice.

These were the noteworthy details in this, the latest PECA case to have been adjudicated and they serve to highlight the effort being put in to regulate the usage of all things internet and also the issues we have to overcome in order to ensure the efficacy of the justice system, including the quality and content of the judgements that are being produced by our esteemed judiciary which require more depth in terms of the ratio they employ and analysis of the facts of the case.


The full judgement can be read here.


This post has been authored by Zainab Durrani.

Zainab tweets at @ZainabKDurrani

August 14, 2018 - Comments Off on Punjab Government’s Safe Cities Project: Safer City or Over Policing?

Punjab Government’s Safe Cities Project: Safer City or Over Policing?


What is a safe city?
The answer to this question is not uniform; in fact it varies according to who you ask.
In a focus group conducted by Digital Rights Foundation in May of last year, consisting of women rights activists from across Pakistan, the answer meant imagining a city that was not only safe for women, in terms of their physical safety, but also welcoming for women and non-binary individuals in its architecture and facilities. Women expressed feeling like anomalies when they use public transport, or simply step outside in public spaces.
In another focus group last year, we posed the same question to lawyers and digital rights activists, and they imagined a city without arbitrary roadblocks by law enforcement agencies and over-policing.
Women from lower classes interestingly stipulated economic issues and affordable housing as issues of safety; since there is a clear nexus between safety of a locality and housing prices. Women, outside the exclusive club of the upper and upper middle classes, are often denied access to safe housing simply because they cannot afford it. In conducting a campaign for launch of our report on safe cities, we spoke  to individuals around Lahore who imagined a city that was green, walkable, accessible for disabled persons and animal-friendly.

It is important to deconstruct the concept safe city from the bottom-up because the definition is often imposed onto citizens from above, i.e. state institutions. The central question guiding Digital Rights Foundation’s (DRF) situational analysis of the Punjab Safe Cities Authority (PSCA) and its work has been an inquiry into the government’s vision of what a safe city looks like and whether that maps onto the vision citizens hold?

Digital Rights Foundation’s report aims to map and understand the nature and scope of the Punjab government’s Safe Cities project from a human rights perspective. The first phase of the safe cities project was completed in January 2018 with the aim of improving urban policing through ICTs, which saw the installation of 8000 CCTV cameras throughout the provincial capital of Punjab, Lahore, at the whooping cost of twelve billion rupees.


The underlying impulse of the safe cities project has been to ensure safety through digitization of existing policing structures. As we note in the report that “[o]n the surface this is a benign project that seeks to simply digitize and update state machinery to make urban policing more efficient. Nevertheless, the introduction of new technologies does not mark a complete break from the past, rather is a continuation of same policing tactics that were a mainstay of the past.”


We have categorized the project neither as an urban planning scheme, nor an e-government initiative. Instead, the Punjab Safe City Project concerns itself primarily with modernizing policing and “policing culture”. The logic there is that our cities would be safer if only they were better policed. Taken at face value, the project aims to eliminate the “thana culture”, a pejorative word used to describe the prevalent abuse of power in the policing system. The modern policing system, aided by technology seeks to bring in transparency, speed and reduce human intervention for corruption. Our report assesses whether the infusion of technology lays to rest these systemic issues within the policing system.


According to our findings, the Authority suffers from many of the same problems that it claims to eschew. There is very little accountability and transparency for the Authority and its operations. Several requests for interviews with its officials were denied on the basis of secrecy. Furthermore, given the scope and ambit of surveillance powers exercised by the Authority, there are no laws or policies regarding data protection.  Bizarrely enough the Safe Cities Authority has been engaging in issues of digital spaces without any legislative mandate.


The operations of the Authority have ensured that safety is guaranteed for large scale events and holidays, where activities can be monitored, controlled and limited. The safety model has not trickled down in terms of everyday crime or reduction of harassment for women in public spaces. Digital Rights Foundation’s report recommends policy interventions in order to make the Authority more accountable and transparent, however ultimately the success of the project depends on matching its conception of safety with that of its beneficiaries: the citizens of the city it seeks to police.


Our report titled “Punjab Government’s Safe Cities Project: Safer City or Over Policing?” can be found here.

August 08, 2018 - Comments Off on Digital Rights Foundation and Privacy International submit Comments on the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018

Digital Rights Foundation and Privacy International submit Comments on the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018

August 8, 2018

The Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunications (MOIT) has put forth it’s draft Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018. Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) welcomed the move to invite comments and feedback from experts, civil society and the general public. Pursuant to the invitation for feedback, Digital Rights Foundation and Privacy International have submitted their joint comments regarding the Personal Data Protection Bill 2018.

The Bill put forward by the MOIT envisions a data protection regime that takes a comprehensive, federal approach to data privacy. The Bill consists of 43 sections and the preamble states its purpose as “to provide for the processing, obtaining, holding, usage and disclosure of data relating to individuals while respecting the rights, freedoms and dignity of natural persons with special regard to their right to privacy, secrecy and personal identity and for matters connected therewith and ancillary thereto”.

The Bill protects two types of data: 1) personal data and 2) sensitive personal data. The processing of personal data can only be done where there is consent of the data subject and notice has been given. In the case of sensitive personal data, explicit consent and along the requirement of necessity are required to collect, process, store and share sensitive personal data. We posit, however, that the definitions of personal data and sensitive personal data are limited in their scope as the former is confined to commercial transactions, whereas the latter does not include within its ambit biometric and genetic data. These definitional limitations essentially mean that government bodies and data held for non-commercial purposes are not governed by the Bill. Given the vast amount of citizens’ data held by the government and its various bodies, this limitations leaves the Bill inadequate in its goal of protecting the privacy of Pakistani citizens.

The Bill confers several rights on citizens, termed as “data subjects”, including the right of notice, access, correction, updation and erasure. It also compels data controllers to put in place security measures to guard against loss, misuse and unauthorized disclosure of personal data; and failure to do so can result in a fine of upto one million rupees. While these are welcome steps, we would urge the Ministry to review some of exceptions to these rights as they are vaguely worded and cast the net of exceptions wide enough to render some of these rights ineffective. We also request the government to define consent widely to ensure that it is explicit, free, informed, proactive, specific and withdrawable.

The Bill also creates a National Commission for Personal Data Protection (NCPDP) which consists of three members belonging to the judiciary, the field of computer science/telecommunications and civil society each.

Generally the Bill does not guarantee protection of personal data of local data subjects when it is held or processed outside the country. This jurisdictional confusion can effectively result in an inability of Pakistani users to control their data once it leaves the borders of Pakistan. Furthermore, the Bill vests wide powers in the Federal Government to make exceptions to the Act and draft Rules, without any effective limits on its delegated powers.

We appreciate that civil society and the general public were given the opportunity to provide their feedback on the Bill and we look forward to engaging in the next steps of the legislative process. Digital Rights Foundation hopes that an inclusive, transparent and well-defined consultative process is laid out by the in-coming government that takes into account meaningful engagement with civil society which is important to ensure that the subsequent Act safeguards the rights of citizens and results in the actualisation of the fundamental right to privacy as enshrined in Article 14 of the Constitution.

The Ministry’s draft Bill can be found here.

Digital Rights Foundation and Privacy International’s submission can be found here [PDF].

This statement is written by Shmyla Khan for the Digital Rights Foundation. For comments or information, email her at or tweet at @shmyla