July 01, 2014 - Comments Off on Senate Passes the Repressive Anti-Terror Protection of Pakistan Bill against Civil Society Will
In the wake of the ongoing military operation in North Wazristan, Senate has passed the controversial Protection of Pakistan Bill 2014 unanimously with both the government and opposition consensus. This is a reminder for the citizens of the country as it has often been a case that controversial and repressive bills are easily passed when security situation is going out of control. The recent battle on terrorism gives an ample reason to the government to quell any dissenting opinions about the Protection of Pakistan bill and tag such opinions as anti-Pakistan.
Presented by the Minister Zahid Hamid, Protection of Pakistan bill 2014 was earlier passed by the National Assembly in April this year. Considered as one of the most regressive and draconian laws of the country, the bill created quite a commotion in the digital media fora of the country as the law clearly inhibits fundamental rights of freedom of speech and internet privacy of users.
Essentially, Protection of Pakistan Bill 2014 gives an enormous level of power to law enforcement agencies in order to tackle terrorism with judicial oversight to increase conviction. This bill enables the agencies to withhold the information of a detainee except from a High Court or Supreme Court along with reserving the right to appeal a judgement in high courts. This has been termed by the human rights activists as a bill which could potentially be used to palliate the Baluchistan Missing Persons case.
Digital Rights Foundation considers the passage of this bill as a clear deviation from the basic rights of speech and criticism that could be made on governmental policies, et ecetra. Protection of Pakistan bill 2014 could be used to suppress peaceful political opposition and the accused will be assumed to be engaged in waging a war or insurrection against Pakistan, unless established otherwise. Internet based offences that comes under the scheduled offenses of this bill are quite vague and can hurt the Internet security and privacy of a common citizen.
While the civil society understands the need of a rigid policy against terrorism in the country, the people of Pakistan have been suffering from similarly stern bills over the last decade and more. If anything this bill should have created more privacy and security protections for the citizens, let alone impeding provisions to hinder their rights to basic freedom of speech.
Also please read our open letter to Senate of Pakistan regarding Pakistan Protection Ordinance 2014
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Digital Rights Foundation is a research based advocacy organisation based in Pakistan focusing on ICTs to support human rights, democratic processes and better digital governance. DRF opposes any and all sorts of online censorship and violations of human rights both on ground and online. We firmly believe that freedom of speech and open access to online content is critically important for the development of socio-economy of the country. www.digitalrightsfoundation.pk