DIGITAL PAKISTAN MONITOR – November 2020

 

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. 1, No. 11 November 2020 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

Government decides to establish Telecommunication Appellate Tribunal

Date: November 3, 2020 – Source: Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication

The federal government decided to establish the Telecommunication Appellate Tribunal through amending the Pakistan Telecommunications (Reorganizations) Act (1996), aimed at facilitating speedy adjudication and reduce burden on high courts.

Government unveils Rolling Spectrum Strategy 2020-2023

Date: November 5, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

The federal government unveiled the Rolling Spectrum Strategy 2020-2023 in order to assist commercial telecommunication operators in network planning, network expansion and investments owing to a massive growth in data utilization.

High-speed broadband access to be extended to unserved and under-served areas of Pakistan

Date: November 20, 2020 – Source: Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication

The Ministry of Information and Technology, under the Universal Service Fund (USF) initiative, decided to speed up projects that would extend high-speed mobile broadband connectivity to 11 million residents of unserved and under-served areas of Pakistan.

Government launches Rolling Spectrum strategy

Date: November 24, 2020 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: Pakistan Today

Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Syed Aminul Haq launched the Rolling Spectrum Strategy 2020-2023. The strategy has been designed in line with the government’s vision of Digital Pakistan.

Government servants directed not to share official information on social media

Date: November 24, 2020 – Source: The News

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan directed to amend Civil Servants Act 1973 prohibiting sharing of official information by government servants on social media platforms.

Inaccessible internet facility hinders digital learning process

Date: November 30, 2020 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: The Nation

Inaccessible internet facilities have hindered the digital learning process for students after the closure of educational institutions during the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic.

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

Islamabad High Court disapproves of trend to ban social media sites

Date: November 3, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) ordered a law officer to present before the court the rules that the federal cabinet has approved with regard to regulating social media as it disapproved the trend of imposing bans on social media sites and new technologies.

Social media activists urged to highlight people’s problems

Date: November 6, 2020 – Source: Dawn

Balochistan Governor retired Justice Amanullah Khan Yasinzai asked social media activists and artists to highlight the real problems and grievances of the common man and suggested measures for resolving the issues faced by society.

Internet policymaking in Pakistan

Date: November 8, 2020 – Source: Dawn

Internet-related law and policymaking in Pakistan requires utmost caution and expertise considering there is little precedent related to it. However, it is important that internet laws and policies be democratic, transparent, consultative, well-informed, practical, and rights respecting.

Association of Pakistani independent online journalism platforms formed

Date: November 19, 2020 – Source: Journalism Pakistan

Representatives of Pakistan’s independent online forums unanimously agreed to form an association. The representative body will work to safeguard the rights and interest of independent online journalism platforms in the country.

Independent online journalism group calls for revocation of new online content rules in Pakistan

Date: November 20, 2020 – Source: Balochistan Voices

The Association of Pakistan’s Independent Online Journalism Platforms issued a statement that condemned the new online content rules in Pakistan as tools to curb content on online platforms and called for the revocation of these rules.

Analysis conducted into new social media rules in Pakistan and their impact on digital rights

Date: November 23, 2020 – Source: Media Matters for Democracy (MMFD)

New social media rules in Pakistan empower the telecom regulator, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to block online speech critical of the government and public officers, and delegates similar overboard powers the regulator and law enforcement groups.

Tunnel vision in the digital frame

Date: November 29, 2020 – Source: The News

A powerful tool that legitimizes censorship of any digital content that can bring the government’s performance in question is horrific for democracy and can be fatal for the survival of political thought 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 decries illegal surveillance and procurement of data in Justice Isa case

Date: November 5, 2020 – Source: Dawn

Supreme Court Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah fears that unlawful procurement of information by the government about properties through unlawful surveillance of Justice Qazi Faez Isa and his family is deeply worrying and shakes the foundation of a democratic society based on rule of law.

Islamabad High Court seeks SECP’s record in data leak case

Date: November 6, 2020 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Express Tribune, Source 3: The Frontier Post

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) sought inquiry record from the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) against its officials Arsalan Zafar in the data leak case.

Minister says no social media platform should be banned

Date: November 6, 2020 – Source: Dawn

Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunications Syed Aminul Haq said that he does not support closure of any social media platform, but no relaxation could be allowed on matters of national security.

State Bank of Pakistan bans online payment for Indian content

Date: November 13, 2020 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Khaleej Times

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) asked banks to stop processing online payments for electronic media content from India with immediate effect. While Indian content had already been banned in Pakistan, the new circular would hit online payments for Direct to Home (DTH) entertainment services.

Pakistan mulls manufacturing SIMs and smart cards as defense against cyberattacks

Date: November 14, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

Authorities in Pakistan plan to approve local manufacturing of SIMs and smart cards. Local manufacturing will assist authorities in shielding Pakistani data systems from threats of cyber-attacks.

Invasion of digital privacy

Date: November 16, 2020 – Source: Dawn

Unlawful digital surveillance and invasion of privacy corrode the very foundations of a democratic social order based on universal principles of human rights. No information obtained through such methods is worth the price.

Freedom Network condemns suspension of mobile services in federal capital

Date: November 16, 2020 – Source: Freedom Network (FN)

Freedom Network (FN) condemned the suspension of mobile and internet services by the government in the federal capital to counter anti-government protests.

US blogger seeks unfreezing of bank account in Pakistan

Date: November 17, 2020 – Source: Dawn

US blogger Cynthia D Ritchie, in her application before the Islamabad High Court (IHC), sought unfreezing of her bank account in Pakistan citing acute financial restraints.

Technology giants threaten to leave Pakistan if social media rules stay

Date: November 20, 2020 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Arab News, Source 3: Al Arabiya Post

The Asia Internet Coalition (AIC) expressed alarm over the scope of new social media laws targeting internet companies, regretted the absence of consultation promised by the government and threatened to leave the country if the laws stay.

MMFD concerned at broadening of the scope of censorship in Pakistan

Date: November 20, 2020 – Source: Media Matters for Democracy

Media Matters for Democracy (MMFD) condemned and raised concerns at broadening of scope of censorship and surveillance laws in Pakistan.

Islamabad High Court declines to entertain plea against broadcast ban on absconders

Date: November 20, 2020 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Express Tribune, Source 3: The News

Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Athar Minallah observed that it was not in public interest to give relief to absconders as he heard a petition against the electronic media watchdog’s order that barred the airing of speeches of proclaimed offenders.

Draconian internet rules in Pakistan

Date: November 22, 2020 – Source: Dawn

New internet rules titled ‘Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards) Rules 2020 undermine the citizens’ right to privacy and enhance the state’s surveillance powers.

Driving away from ‘Digital Pakistan’

Date: November 23, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

The Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content 2020 subject internet service providers to the same restrictions that were earlier imposed on social media. Such actions, taken without consultation with stakeholders, is reversing any gains from the ‘Digital Pakistan’ initiative.

Actress Veena Malik files complaint at FIA’s Cyber Wing over audio leak

Date: November 23, 2020 – Source: The News

Pakistani actress Veena Malik filed a complaint with the Federal Investigation Agency‘s (FIA) Cyber Wing against a leaked audio clip and social media campaign that was ‘tarnishing’ her reputation.

Senator Sherry Rehman slams draconian censorship laws for social media in Pakistan

Date: November 24, 2020 – Source: The News

Senator Sherry Rehman slammed the draconian censorship laws for social media and said that muzzling the truth and the controlling of narratives is unacceptable in a democratic society.

Social media promoting gun culture in Lahore

Date: November 29, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

A special monitoring cell was set up by Deputy Inspector General Ashfaq Khan to monitor and deter the display of arms on social media in the provincial capital.

SECTION 4: Digitalization

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

President urges promotion of e-governance in public sector institutions

Date: November 2, 2020 – Source: Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication

President Dr Arif Alvi emphasized the need for setting up an integrated government database to enhance the efficiency of public sector institutions.

Pakistan enters $1 trillion cloud kitchen market as pandemic rages on

Date: November 7, 2020 – Source: Arab News

Pakistan entered the $1 trillion global cloud kitchen market amid rising coronavirus infections this year, generating significant interest among restaurant owners as the world was forced to rethink its passion for dining.

Provinces look to Punjab model for digitization

Date: November 9, 2020 – Source: Dawn

Other provinces look to the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) for their digitization plans as it has been fostering a culture of innovation through its role as an outsourced technology center and by setting up its ‘Plan 9’ and ‘Plan X’, incubation and acceleration centers.

A drone-led agricultural revolution in Pakistan

Date: November 9, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

With a huge ever-increasing population and climate change-driven issues, technological solutions to agricultural problems have been introduced in Pakistan. Experts believe that the use of drone technology to carry out vital agricultural processes could be a game changer.

Punjab Police relaunches old women safety application

Date: November 9, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

The Punjab Police tricked Chief Minister Usman Buzdar into inaugurating a women safety application, with an already launched version in 2019, as a new digital initiative. Furthermore, netizens have complained that the application can only be downloaded on certain mobile operating systems.

Leap-frogging of exports in the age of technology

Date: November 9, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

Pakistan has been unable to capitalize on the development of technology to boost its exports. Hiring of tech-savvy professionals, efficient policymaking and early adoption of technology can assist the country in reaching its economic targets.

Pakistan Bureau of Statistics launches digital dashboards to provide info-graphic data

Date: November 10, 2020 – Source: Associated Press of Pakistan

The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) launched two digital dashboards under its Digital Transformation initiative to provide latest information along with time series and info-graphic data to citizens.

Ministry of Human Rights launches awareness campaign about ‘Zainab Alert Bill’

Date: November 10, 2020 – Source: The News

The Ministry of Human Rights (MoHR) launched a community engagement campaign aimed at raising awareness about the ‘Zainab Alert Bill’ that has recently been launched on the Pakistan Citizen’s Portal.

Covid-19 hastened digitization in Pakistan

Date: November 10, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

The advent of the novel coronavirus has proved to be a catalyst in the sudden adoption of digitization and along with it hastened the onset of its many benefits and pitfalls in Pakistan.

State Bank clarifies policy regarding use of digital currencies in Pakistan

Date: November 10, 2020 – Source: Arab News

In a written statement to the Sindh High Court (SHC), the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) clarified it had not formally banned any digital currencies and digital currency-related businesses in the country. However, it maintained its warning against the use of such currencies in Pakistan.

South Punjab secretariat to implement e-filing

Date: November 11, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) and South Punjab Secretariat to implement the E-Filing and Office Automation System (e-FOAS) and Human Resource Management Information System (HRMIS) at the latter’s offices.

State Bank of Pakistan moves to digitize payment processes

Date: November 11, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Governor Reza Baqir said that the bank was moving towards digitalization of payment processes and proactive engagement that will address major issues systematically and facilitate the business community in Pakistan.

Cloud kitchen concept introduced in Pakistan

Date: November 11, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

Small and medium-sized restaurants in Pakistan will now be able to achieve economies of scale without massive investment as the food business is now headed towards the concept of cloud kitchen which is a potential market worth Rs20 billion per annum.

Digitization to power industrial revolution in Pakistan

Date: November 11, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

Speaking at a seminar in Lahore, leading industrial experts and engineers said that the concept of digitalization will be the basis of the next revolution in Pakistan’s large and medium-scale industrial sector.

United Nations Development Program mission to support Pakistan’s digital transformation

Date: November 16, 2020 – Source: Dawn

A United Nations Development Program mission arrived in Pakistan to collaborate with government ministries and support the country’s digital transformation initiatives.

The future of e-commerce in Pakistan

Date: November 17, 2020 – Source: The News

There has been rapid growth of internet users, subscribers and e-commerce platforms in Pakistan. However, the realization of potential of e-commerce in the country depends on increased digital literacy of its citizens and inclusive financial systems.

E-visa facility to be extended to 16 more countries

Date: November 17, 2020 – Source: Dawn

Authorities in Pakistan plan to extend the online visa facility to citizens of 16 more countries. Currently, the facility is available to residents of 175 countries.

Can Spotify save the day for Pakistani musicians?

Date: November 18, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

Spotify, the Swedish music streaming company, created a verified Pakistan-specific Instagram account. This has raised expectations that the formal launch of the company’s operations in Pakistan is imminent and will create additional digital revenue streams for the country’s musicians.

Pakistan moving towards digital financial inclusion

Date: November 18, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

In a bid to further its goal for digital payments and financial inclusion, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) granted approval to a number of Pakistani financial technology startups to test their operations in the country.

After Tele-School, Radio school on the cards in Pakistan

Date: November 21, 2020 – Source: The News

The Federal Education Ministry signed a memorandum of understanding to begin ‘radio schools’ aimed at educating over eight million children across the country.

State of the digital economy in Pakistan

Date: November 23, 2020 – Source: Dawn

A recent report by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) suggested that the share of e-commerce and digital payments across all sales in Pakistan have increased. The increase is attributed to the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic and the resultant reduction in in-person shopping.

Government begins consultation process on ‘Digital Assets’ in Pakistan

Date: November 24, 2020 – Source: Dawn

The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) decided to formulate laws related to establishment of Digital Assets and defining the status of cyber currencies in Pakistan.

5G rollout to take 5-7 years in Pakistan

Date: November 24, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

Experts suggested that while the government planned to launch 5G technology by December 2022, it will take a much longer time and stringent efforts to fully roll out the next generation technology in Pakistan.

Digital job fair held in federal capital

Date: November 25, 2020 – Source: The News

More than 1,400 interested candidates attended Pakistan’s first-ever digital job fair organized in Islamabad. The event was designed to connect fresh graduates and industry specialists with STEM and energy-sector employers.

President calls for digitization of parliament

Date: November 26, 2020 – Source: Dawn

President Dr Arif Alvi underscored the need for digitalization of the Parliament House to ensure an efficient secretariat and committee management as well as decision-making.

Informational technology exports to be boosted by tax rationalization

Date: November 28, 2020 – Source: Dawn

Speaking at a virtual workshop, financial technology experts proposed a range of measures to remove obstacles in boosting digital exports from Pakistan. These proposals included tax rationalization to address existing digital divide in the country.

Duty collection on mobile device import doubles to Rs54 billion

Date: November 29, 2020 – Source: Dawn

Pakistan Customs collected Rs54 billion in 2019 on import of mobile devices through Device Identifica­tion, Registration and Blocking System (DIRBs), which is 145 per cent higher over the preceding year.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to assist Gilgit-Baltistan on reform initiatives in IT sector

Date: November 29, 2020 – Source: The News

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government proposed assistance to the Gilgit-Baltistan administration in the information technology sector reforms. This would include provision of free digital hosting and technical assistance for software communication for Planning Commission forms.

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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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