DIGITAL PAKISTAN MONITOR – February 2021

A monthly report on trends relating to digital rights, policies, practices & media

Tracking: Internet and digital policies and regulations

Digitalization in governance and socio-economic domains

Digital rights violations and protections

Digital rights advocacy and defense

Digital media and online free speech

Vol. 2, No. 2 February 2021 Edition

Produced by Freedom Network – www.fnpk.org

SECTION 1: Internet and digital policies and regulations

  • Federal and provincial governments (ministries and departments)
  • Internet regulators
  • Media regulators
  • Telecom regulators
  • Internet access / connectivity

Download speeds improve as state authority tests controlled 5G connectivity in Pakistan

Date: February 1, 2021 – Source: Dawn

The Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) conducted tests of 5G technology in a limited environment on a non-commercial basis to achieve download speeds reach 1.685 gigabytes per second.

Government to improve broadband connectivity in South Waziristan

Date: February 11, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

With directives to the private mobile services providers to improve broadband connectivity in South Waziristan, authorities remain actively engaged in ensuring better broadband services in the area to facilitate the local community, particularly students.

Alternative arrangements made to ensure uninterrupted internet services in Pakistan

Date: February 20, 2021 – Source: The News

In the wake of a fault in one of the international underwater internet cables landing in Pakistan, alternative arrangements to provide uninterrupted internet services to users were made by relevant service providers through obtaining additional bandwidth.

South Waziristan district gets 4G internet connectivity

Date: February 21, 2021 – Source: Dawn

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) called on more mobile service provider to start their operations in the remote regions of Pakistan after Jazz, the country’s largest mobile service operator, launched its 4G services in the border district of South Waziristan.

Pakistan to launch 5G connectivity by 2023

Date: February 25, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Syed Amin ul Haq announced that the government targeted to commercially launch country-wide 5G connectivity by 2023.

Government to amend new social media regulations

Date: February 27, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) gave the federal government until April 2 to amend the new social media rules and directed the Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Javed Khan to submit a report in this regard.

SECTION 2: Digital rights advocacy and defense

  • Pakistan-based citizens and civil society organizations
  • Independent international digital rights organizations
  • UN and global multilateral organizations
  • Governmental and other sources

Bolo Bhi welcomes Senate’s decision to reject proposed Web Television regulation

Date: February 12, 2021 – Source: Bolo Bhi

Bolo Bhi, a research and advocacy non-governmental organization, welcomed the decision by the Senate Committee on Human Rights to reject the proposed regulation on Web Television and Over-the-Top Television services in Pakistan.

SECTION 3: Digital rights violations and protections

  • Citizens and netizens – including case studies
  • Media, journalists and other information practitioners
  • Online free speech
  • Online access to information
  • Privacy violations
  • Data protection
  • Surveillance
  • Misinformation / disinformation / fake news
  • Cybercrime

Supreme Court justice’s cell phone hacked

Date: February 3, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The News, Source 3: Express Tribune

The Supreme Court of Pakistan (SBP) announced that Justice Qazi Faez Isa’s cell phone had been hacked and that communication purportedly made from his mobile phone might be treated as fake and false during proceedings of his ongoing case.

Woman among four TikTokers gunned down in Karachi

Date: February 3, 2021 – Source: Dawn

A gun attack left four social media influencers, including a woman, dead in Karachi while they were filming short videos for their TikTok account followers.

Sindh High Court seeks draft bill proposed for data protection

Date: February 3, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

The Sindh High Court (SHC) sough from the Ministry of Law a draft of the laws proposed for the protection of personal data of citizens in Pakistan.

Islamabad police seeks 4,000 additional close circuit cameras

Date: February 6, 2021 – Source: Dawn

The capital police requested the Federal Ministry for Interior to increase the number of close circuit television cameras within the vicinity of the federal capital by 4,000.

Fake social media accounts irk Senate panel on information technology

Date: February 10, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

The Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication expressed concern over fake social media accounts being run in the name of political and social personalities.

Court asks Federal Investigation Authority to act against anti-judiciary rant on YouTube

Date: February 12, 2021 – Source: Dawn

Lahore High Court (LHC) Chief Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan directed the Federal Investigation Authority (FIA) to take action against persons involved in anti-judiciary propaganda on YouTube.

Senate body orders action over political leader’s fake social media accounts

Date: February 13, 2021 – Source: The News

The Senate Committee on Interior directed the Federal Investigation Authority (FIA) to launch a crackdown on those running fake social media accounts of Pakistan Peoples Party’s leader Aitzaz Ahsan.

Islamabad High Court suspends show cause notice in SECP data leak case

Date: February 18, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

The Islamabad High Court (IHC), while extending a stay order, suspended a show cause notice issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) to one of its employees in the commission’s data leak case.

70% increase reported in cyber harassment cases in Pakistan during 2020

Date: February 18, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The News

More than 70% increase in complaints was reported at the cyber harassment helpline of Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) during 2020, showing a high number of cases related to online blackmailing, extortion and hackling during the lockdown period.

Government departments told to shift websites to NTC to avoid possible cyber-attacks

Date: February 19, 2021 – Source: Dawn

The Federal Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication wrote a letter to all federal secretaries asking them to shift websites of their respective ministries and attached departments to the main data center of the National Telecommunication Corporation (NTC) to avoid possible cyber-attacks.

Government agrees to formation of complaints council for online content in Pakistan

Date: February 20, 2021 – Source: The News

The Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) agreed to the proposal of the formation of a council to review ‘unwanted’ social media content in Pakistan.

SECTION 4: Digitalization

  • Digitalization in governance sectors / e-governance
  • Digitalization in social and development sectors
  • Digitalization in business and commercial sectors

Roshan Digital Accounts attract $400m four months into launch

Date: February 3, 2021 – Source: Dawn

Foreign exchange inflows through the Roshan Digital Accounts (RDAs) reached $400 million within four months of its launch, reflecting growing confidence in the State Bank of Pakistan’s (SBP) initiative.

Pilot program to digitize health department in Balochistan launched

Date: February 8, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

The Balochistan government launched a pilot program to digitize its health department for provision of telehealth facilities at various Basic Health Units (BHUs) across the province.

State Bank of Pakistan to organize digitalization awareness sessions

Date: February 8, 2021 – Source: Urdu Point

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) announced to organize online awareness sessions focused on its newly regulated end-to-end digitalization system for members of the Faisalabad Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FCCI).

Punjab to digitally consolidate land registration

Date: February 10, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

The revenue department in Punjab announced to introduce a digitized system under which ownership certificates will be issued to all land owners in the province.

Pakistan set to pilot-run new digital payment system

Date: February 12, 2021 – Source: The News

The government announced to launch a new digital system to process payments within and from Pakistan through integration with any international payment provider.

Pakistani start-up introduces voice search on its e-commerce platform

Date: February 18, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

Shopsy.pk, a Pakistani e-commerce start-up, introduced integrated voice search on its platform to assist customers to use their voice to navigate its website and digital application.

Microsoft to introduce new technologies in Pakistani universities

Date: February 18, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The News, Source 3: Microsoft News Center

Microsoft Pakistan and Higher Education Commission (HEC) signed an education transformation agreement to help educational institutions in Pakistan leverage new technologies in the learning process.

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority seeks end to illegal GSM booster imports

Date: February 18, 2021 – Source: Dawn

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) urged the Federal Board of Revenue to stop illegal imports of GSM boosters that cause interference in frequency bands of mobile companies and deteriorates quality of cellular services in Pakistan.

Government wants to engage social media influencers to promote tourism in Pakistan

Date: February 19, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

Federal Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan suggested that social media influencers operating from Pakistan on YouTube should be engaged to promote tourism in the country.

State Bank of Pakistan makes digital transactions more secure and easier

Date: February 20, 2021 – Source: The News

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) initiated steps to make digital transactions and card payments in Pakistan secure and easier after holding consultations with industry and other stakeholders.

Digital transformation of Pakistan’s public sector organizations

Date: February 25, 2021 – Source: The Nation

Pakistan’s public sector embarked on its journey of digitalization since the last decade. The sector has, however, been unable to fully integrate into a digital system that provides efficient solutions for the country’s citizens.

Information technology exports from Pakistan surge to $1.1 billion

Date: February 25, 2021 – Source: The News

Pakistan’s information technology exports surged to $1.1 billion during the first half of the 2020-2021 financial year. The surge is fueled by an increase in stay-at-home orders amid the pandemic.

Pakistan missing out on the crypto revolution

Date: February 28, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

While Pakistan is not alone in its blanket ban on digital currencies, it remains far behind states that have allowed citizens to transact and financially grow using the growing influence and value of crypto currencies.

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OBJECTIVES: This series of monthly report aims to:

  • Track developments revolving around the framework of digitalization in Pakistan including policy and advocacy on digital rights, policy enforcements and digital rights violations, covering viewpoints of government, civil society, human rights community including digital rights campaigners, media, citizen journalists and other information practitioners, and regulators of electronic media, internet and telecom sectors, and netizens.
  • Monitor the interface between digital rights and Pakistan’s overall legal framework and how developments around them impact freedom of expression and access to information online as well as diversity and pluralism in Pakistan’s digital landscape, cyberspace and internet domains.
  • Follow developments around the themes of digital rights, freedom of expression, access to information, privacy, surveillance, data protection, access to internet services, telecom policies, etc.

INFORMATION SOURCES: This report monitors, among others, the following sources of information:

  • Government: Federal and provincial cabinets
  • Ministries: Related ministries, including Information and Broadcasting, Information Technology (IT) and Telecom, Human Rights, Science and Technology, Commerce and Industry, etc.
  • Legislatures: Senate, National Assembly, provincial assemblies, relevant standing committees
  • Regulators: Pakistan telecommunications Authority (PTA), Pakistan Electronic Media regulatory Authority (PEMRA), Press Council of Pakistan (PPC), State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), etc.
  • Global organizations: UN/Unesco, International Media Support (IMS), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Amnesty International (AI), Human Rights Watch (HRW), etc.
  • National organizations: Digital Rights Foundation (DRF), BoloBhi, Media Matters for Democracy (MMFD), Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development (IRADA), Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), etc.
  • Media: Dawn, The News, Express Tribune, The Nation, Pakistan Today, The Friday Times, etc.
  • Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • Local networks: Journalists Safety Hubs Network, Alliance on Diversity & Pluralism in Media, etc.
  • Research groups: Gallup Pakistan, IPSOS Pakistan, etc.

 

 

 

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