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. 6 June 2020 Edition

Produced by Freedom Network –

SECTION 1: Internet and digital policies and regulations

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

Cabinet approves first ever mobile device manufacturing policy

Date: June 3, 2020 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: Pakistan Today, Source 3: The Frontier Post

Following approval from the Economic Coordination Committee, the federal cabinet gave a go-ahead to the first-ever Mobile Device Manufacturing Policy (MDMP), paving way for local assembly and manufacturing of mobile phones.

Internet connectivity essential for women to access important information

Date: June 8, 2020 – Source: Digital Rights Monitor

According to the Mobile Gender Gap Report 2019, Pakistan has one of the widest mobile ownership gender gaps among surveyed countries. This gap and lack of subsequent internet connectivity makes it difficult for women to access important information.

Mobile subscribers hit 89m by end of 2019

Date: June 9, 2020 – Source: Dawn

Mobile phones are the dominant form of digital connectivity in Pakistan, with 89 million unique subscribers as of the end of 2019, according to the GSMA — an industry body representing mobile networks.

Non-digital students a challenge for e-classes

Date: June 12, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

With the novel coronavirus pandemic forcing everyone to shift their focus to training online, the biggest challenge that has come up is that most of the population is not tuned to the digital world to take full advantage of such digital services.

Students hold protest in Gwadar against internet connectivity issues

Date: June 19, 2020 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The Friday Times

Hundreds of students from Gwadar and other parts of Makran division belonging to different colleges and universities of the country staged a protest rally and a sit-in against the Higher Education Comm­ission’s decision to start online classes despite severe internet connectivity issues in the region.

Finance Bill and data privacy

Date: June 21, 2020 – Source: The News

The Finance Bill 2020, presented along with federal budget for fiscal year 2020-21, contains certain provisions relating to real-time access by the Federal Board of Revenue to citizens’ data to be obtained from various institutions that infringe upon the inviolable fundamental rights of citizens.

Company linked to Prime Minister’s Digital Pakistan unit stirs controversy

Date: June 24, 2020 – Source: Dawn

A company related to the Digital Pakistan initiative — a brainchild of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government — has stirred a controversy on social media, questioning the involvement of the premier’s special aide leading the initiative, who is among the board of directors of the related company.

Poor internet access for students echoes in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Assembly

Date: June 27, 2020 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: News Update Pakistan

Lawmakers took up the issue of poor internet connection for students in the remote areas of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, noting that the novel coronavirus pandemic means that online classes are the only means for obtaining education for students now.

No internet for students in Balochistan

Date: June 27, 2020 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: Technology Times

Education and internet facilities in Balochistan and the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas are not at par with the majority of areas of other provinces in Pakistan. This leads to severe connectivity issues for students to effectively participate in online education programs.

Bridging the digital divide in Pakistan

Date: June 29, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

It is essential that Pakistan joins the bandwagon of digitalization and ensures easier access to technology by bridging the digital divide across different segments of the population.

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

Media Matters for Democracy submits formal feedback on Data Protection Bill 2020

Date: June 3, 2020 – Source: Media Matters for Democracy

Media Matters for Democracy has submitted its formal review, comments, and recommendations in response to the draft Personal Data Protection Bill 2020 posted on the website of the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication for feedback.

Technology firms seek formal withdrawal of Citizen Protection rules

Date: June 6, 2020 – Source: Dawn

A day after the government officially began its consultation meetings with local stakeholders, the Asia Internet Coalition has submitted comments and recommendations on the Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules, 2020.

Pakistani scholars among winners of Facebook award

Date: June 21, 2020 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: Technology Review

Pakistan’s Junaid Qadir, Professor at the Information Technology University of the Punjab, along with co-investigator Amana Raquib, Assistant Professor at the Institute of Business Administration, Karachi were announced winners of the Ethics in AI Research Initiative for the Asia Pacific, by Facebook.

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

Government of Balochistan bans sharing patients’ personal information online

Date: June 4, 2020 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: Dawn, Source 3: Balochistan Express

The Government of Balochistan completely banned sharing personal information of patients infected with the novel coronavirus, citing that the patients are more prone to depression after seeing their names being circulated publicly.

Cyber harassment complaints surged during lockdown

Date: June 4, 2020 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: Dawn, Source 3: News Update Pakistan

The Digital Rights Foundation has reported a 189 per cent increase in complaints registered with its Cyber Harassment Helpline during Pakistan’s coronavirus lockdown.

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority’s ambiguous order to register VPNs for ‘legitimate’ use

Date: June 8, 2020 – Source: Digital Rights Monitor

The directive would allow users to ‘whitelist’ their VPNs to access ‘legitimate’ internet traffic. It is imperative to state that many businesses use VPNs to build internal communication infrastructures, and they also help internet users in accessing public and unsecure internet connections without any risk.

Consumers feel exposed to online scams

Date: June 9, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

While e-commerce has recorded an unprecedented boom during the current pandemic restrictions, consumers have blamed online shopping portals for spreading misinformation about their products and services.

What privacy rights are we willing to forego to defeat the virus?

Date: June 9, 2020 – Source: Digital Rights Monitor

With coronavirus cases rising rapidly across nation-states, some governments and administrations are implementing dangerously invasive Covid-19 contact tracing policies. These are in gross violation of individual rights to privacy and freedom of expression.

Federal Investigation Agency opposes plea for criminal case against US blogger

Date: June 10, 2020 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Times of Pakistan

The Federal Investigation Agency opposed a petition seeking registration of a criminal case against US blogger Cynthia D. Ritchie and requested the district and sessions court to dismiss it accordingly since the petitioner was not an aggrieved person in the matter.

Analysis highlights privacy concerns in Pakistan Government’s Covid-19 application

Date: June 11, 2020 – Source: Digital Rights Monitor

Analysis by an independent French software expert and ethical hacker has raised serious concerns over privacy of data in the recently launched Covid-19 application by the Government of Pakistan.

Government’s Covid-19 application sparks furor over security flaws

Date: June 11, 2020 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Pakistan Today, Source 3: Technology Review

The National Information Technology Board responded to recent allegations that the Covid-19 government application, claiming to help curb the spread of coronavirus is a threat to the personal data of its Pakistani users.

Police refuse to register case against US blogger

Date: June 13, 2020 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: 92 News, Source 3: Dawn

The Islamabad Police refused to register a case against US blogger Cynthia D. Ritchie citing that it was a cybercrime case and fell under the ambit of the Federal Investigation Agency.

Capital administration warns of action over false information about Covid-19

Date: June 13, 2020 – Source: Dawn

The capital administration issued warning of strict action against those involved in spreading false information about Covid-19.

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority says it cannot act against Cynthia Ritchie

Date: June 14, 2020 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: Dawn

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority expressed its inability to proceed against Cynthia Ritchie taking the stance that the authority lacked the jurisdiction to proceed aga­inst an individual over an alleged controversial tweet.

Increasing online censorship is not acceptable

Date: June 14, 2020 – Source: Dawn

The ad-hoc manner in which powers have been exercised by the government, to stifle dissent and deny due process to those against whom action has been taken — evidence of which there is plenty — substantiate that it serves no purpose other than being a censorship-enabling provision for the state.

Court asks Federal Investigation Agency to proceed against Cynthia Ritchie

Date: June 16, 2020 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The News, Source 3: Express Tribune

An additional district and sessions judge directed the Federal Investigation Agency to proceed against US blogger Cynthia D. Ritchie for allegedly defaming former prime minister of Pakistan and slain Pakistan People’s Party chairperson Benazir Bhutto.

Bani Gala Station House Officer called in US blogger case

Date: June 18, 2020 – Source 1: Pakistan Today, Source 2: Express Tribune

A local court summoned the Station House Officer of Bani Gala Police Station in a case regarding the defamation of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto by US blogger Cynthia Richie.

US blogger challenges ruling against her in Islamabad High Court

Date: June 19, 2020 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Express Tribune

US blogger Cynthia D. Ritchie filed an appeal against the directive of a court to the Federal Investigation Agency to proceed against her in connection with the case of defaming former prime minister Benazir Bhutto on social media.

Islamabad High Court rejects US blogger’s petition to stop Federal Investigation Agency probe

Date: June 23, 2020 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: Dawn, Source 3: South Asia Monitor

The Islamabad High Court rejected US blogger Cynthia Richie’s plea to stop the Federal Investigation Agency from taking action against her.

Rehman Malik serves another defamation notice on Cynthia Ritchie

Date: June 24, 2020 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: The Nation, Source 3: Daily Times

Pakistan People’s Party leader Senator Rehman Malik through his lawyers served another defamation notice to US Citizen Cynthia D. Ritchie “over false, frivolous and baseless allegations”.

Weaponizing the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act

Date: June 25, 2020 – Source: Dawn

Acting excessively and unlawfully against Pakistani citizens, especially journalists, is a consistent pattern, beginning as early as 2017 hardly months after the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 was enacted.

Videos of police brutality trigger outrage on social media

Date: June 25, 2020 – Source: Dawn

Disturbing videos of police personnel stripping and torturing an accused inside a police station emerged online and led to a social media uproar over police brutality.

Islamabad High Court calls for explanation about Cynthia Ritchie’s visa status

Date: June 27, 2020 – Source: Dawn

The Islamabad High Court sought an explanation from the Ministry of Interior about the status and terms and conditions of the visa issued to US blogger Cynthia D. Ritchie, asking it to explain if she was entitled to making political statements.

Journalism and textbooks – and religious minorities

Date: June 28, 2020 – Source: The News

Sadly, in Pakistani media – be it electronic, print or social – minorities are neglected, or rather face an aggressive attitude from the majority.

Police move to get online game banned after teen’s suicide

Date: June 28, 2020 – Source: Dawn

The Capital City Police Officer in Islamabad has recommended a ban on an online game to save lives, time and future of millions of teenagers.

Infodemic amidst pandemic

Date: June 29, 2020 – Source: Dawn

As much as these efforts by well-meaning citizens need to be lauded, there is no denying that the decentralization and crowdsourcing of information when it comes to the biggest health crisis of the century is a very risky bet.

SECTION 4: Digitalization

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

Bookme, 1LINK to digitize payments

Date: June 1, 2020 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: Technology Times

Bookme Tickets Private Limited and 1LINK (Private) Limited have partnered for 1LINK-1BILL aggregation services to simplify digital payments for’s 4.5 million customers across Pakistan.

Pakistan National Council of Arts organizes online event

Date: June 2, 2020 – Source: The News

In the current times of coronavirus-induced lockdown and social distancing, an online session organized by the Pakistan National Council of the Arts brought art lovers and leading artists together on the occasion of Eid.

Allama Iqbal Open University to accept web-based results for next admission cycle

Date: June 2, 2020 – Source: The News

Allama Iqbal Open University has announced that it will accept web-based provincial certificate (result) to facilitate its students taking admissions in Spring, 2020 semester.

Upsurge in ‘online matrimonial’ offers

Date: June 3, 2020 – Source: The News

An upsurge in ‘online matrimonial’ offers has been recorded on social media platforms during restrictions in place due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Federal Minister gives direction for completing work on information technology park

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

Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Syed Amin ul Haq gave direction that work on the Information Technology Park in Islamabad should be completed in a timely and transparent manner.

International Islamic University to offer over 4,000 online courses

Date: June 3, 2020 – Source: The News

After launching a virtual education policy for online teaching amid coronavirus pandemic, the International Islamic University has planned to offer over 4,000 online courses for over 30,000 students, 498 academic programs and 88 departments of nine faculties

Using Facebook, Covid-19 survivors rally to donate plasma

Date: June 4, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

A number of Covid-19 survivors have banded together to form Facebook groups like ‘Corona Recovered Warriors’ and ‘Blood Warriors of Pakistan’, both to coordinate plasma donations and assist anyone else who contracts the virus.

Driving licenses now just an application away

Date: June 5, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

Rawalpindi Traffic Police has introduced a new one-window operation to provide licenses without any human intervention and it has also offered a technological solution to the long waiting lines – book an appointment beforehand using a mobile application.

Federal Bureau of Revenue jacks up valuation rates of mobile accessories

Date: June 5, 2020 – Source: The News

Just ahead of upcoming budget, the Federal Bureau Revenue has jacked up customs valuation rates of mobile accessories substantially.

Zong 4G among ten most supportive companies fighting Covid-19 in Pakistan

Date: June 5, 2020 – Source: The News

A survey conducted by market research company Ipsos has recognized Zong 4G under China Mobile Pakistan as one of the 10 most supportive companies in the fight against Covid-19 in Pakistan.

National Command and Control Centre launches new application

Date: June 6, 2020 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: Samaa, Source 3: 92 News

National Command and Operation Center Pakistan has launched the ‘Pak Nigheban’ application to provide information about the availability of ventilators in hospitals.

People shift to internet, mobile banking due to pandemic restrictions

Date: June 10, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

A large number of Pakistanis have switched to internet and mobile banking in a bid to adopt precautionary measures against Covid-19 as online banking assists in transferring funds, paying utility bills and making online shopping.

Online learning: The new normal

Date: June 10, 2020 – Source: Dawn

Online teaching allows for bite-sized concepts that can be customized for differentiated learning as the teacher takes students through digital worksheets. The level of difficulty of questions set can be controlled.

Online exhibition showcases works by four award-winning Pakistani artists

Date: June 11, 2020 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The News, Source 3: The World News Monitor

An online exhibition titled ‘Fleeting Moments’ showcasing works by Nahid Raza, Prof Dr Rahat Naveed Masud, Akram Dost Baloch and Sadaf Naeem was held.

Digital future

Date: June 11, 2020 – Source: Dawn

Across Asia, the digital economy has been a crucial factor in transforming economies and communities and spurring economic growth.

Rs6.67 billion set aside for information technology, telecommunications division

Date: June 13, 2020 – Source 1: Pakistan Today, Source 2: Express Tribune

The federal government has allocated Rs6.6 billion for ongoing and new schemes of the Information Technology and Telecommunication Division under the Public Sector Development Program for the financial year 2020-21.

Fashion and the digital experience

Date: June 14, 2020 – Source: The News

The impact of the current pandemic has directly affected the fashion calendar, forcing international fashion councils to re-strategize and rethink the need for so many collections and fashion weeks.

Going online: Lessons from the classroom

Date: June 14, 2020 – Source: Dawn

The unplanned transition from conventional classrooms to online spaces due to restrictions in movement has unearthed basic issues such as ill-trained faculties, connectivity issues, and insufficient technical support.

Billions allocated for information technology sector

Date: June 14, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

The government sees promising potential in information technology services for education and health solutions as it has allocated billions of rupees for different technologies including 5G in budget 2020-21 to put the country on the path of development.

Members of Parliament mull virtual assembly session

Date: June 14, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

Ahead of the provincial budget being presented, the Sindh government has begun deliberations with opposition parties over convening a virtual assembly session for the budget.

Minister urges use of modern technology for efficiency in official matters

Date: June 15, 2020 – Source: Dawn

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has underlined the need for use of modern technology for efficient running of official matters.

Punjab brings ride-hailing applications under sales tax net

Date: June 16, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

The Punjab government has added the services of ride-hailing apps to its sales tax net through the Finance Bill 2020.

Government urged to resolve e-learning issues

Date: June 17, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

The infrastructural and governance level issues need to be addressed by the governments to streamline the e-learning after Covid-19 scenario in addition to efforts that the learning institutions are putting to be adaptive to new challenges.

Lockdown means business in socially distanced Pakistan

Date: June 18, 2020 – Source: The News

Lockdown-driven social distancing has catalyzed digital transition in Pakistan unfolding economic opportunities for people to make lemonade from lemons, according to a survey by Google.

Police ask citizens to file complaints online

Date: June 19, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

In view of the coronavirus outbreak, Rawalpindi police have advised the citizens to use social media for online registrations of their complaints.

Pakistan sends 38 exporters’ names to Amazon for registration

Date: June 19, 2020 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: Pakistan Today, Source 3: Market Screener

In a major development in Pakistan’s efforts to increase its e-commerce with outside world, Pakistan has sent a list of 38 exporters to US e-commerce giant Amazon for registration.

Government automates tax return assessment in major policy shift

Date: June 20, 2020 – Source: The News

The government has automated tax return assessment in a major policy shift for the next fiscal year of 2020/21, ending a decade-old manual procedure.

PTA chairman holds video conference with Asia Internet Coalition representatives

Date: June 20, 2020 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: Media Online Today

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) Chairman Amir Azeem Bajwa held a meeting with Asia Internet Coalition, a representative body of technology companies and social media platforms, via video conference in continuation of the ongoing consultation process over Citizens Protection Rules, 2020.

Information Technology to help promote trade with Canada

Date: June 21, 2020 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: Times of Islamabad

Pakistan’s High Commissioner in Canada has said that business and trade between Canada and Pakistan could be promoted by taking advantage of information technology.

Information Technology secretary lauds Virtual University for promoting online education

Date: June 23, 2020 – Source: The News

The federal secretary of the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication has lauded the role of Virtual University of Pakistan for promoting online education especially during current Covid-19 pandemic.

Islamabad High Court moved to bring in Amazon, PayPal

Date: June 24, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

The Islamabad High Court gave the federal government two weeks to submit its response to a petition filed against the lack of e-commerce facilities in the country.

Chief Minister endorses e-bidding as harbinger to transparency

Date: June 26, 2020 – Source: Dawn

Chief Minister Mahmood Khan formally inaugurated E-Property Management System of local government to ensure effective and efficient management of the commercial properties of the department and all its subordinate formations.

Board of Investment launches online portals

Date: June 26, 2020 – Source: Pakistan Today

The Board of Investment launched three online portals including Electronic Joint Venture (EJV), Branch Liaison Management Information System (BLMIS) and Special Economic Zones (SEZs) Information Portal to digitize all services for the benefit of investors.

Bracing Eastern classical music for the online challenge

Date: June 28, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

Given the current set of circumstances with the coronavirus pandemic in full swing, the latest edition of the annual Tehzeeb Music Festival was held virtually.

Pakistani company takes on Google Maps

Date: June 28, 2020 – Source: Dawn

TPL Maps is a Pakistani navigation application based out of Karachi that lets you wander around without getting lost. The local company aspires to challenge the monopoly of Google Maps in Pakistan’s tracking and location data industry.

Higher Education Commission finds University of Sargodha ‘ready’ to impart online education

Date: June 28, 2020 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Daily Times

The Higher Education Commission has declared University of Sargodha as fully prepared to impart online education to the students.

Government launches the ‘AgriSurge 2020 Innovation Challenge’ to promote agriculture challenges

Date: June 29, 2020 – Source: Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication

The AgriSurge 2020 Innovation Challenge was launched by the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication and the Food and Agriculture Organization to address challenges faced by the agriculture sector through innovation initiatives.

Police’s citizens monitoring application making ‘smart lockdown’ in cities more effective

Date: June 29, 2020 – Source: Dawn

The citizens monitoring application designed by Sindh Police has allowed city authorities to effectively administer ‘smart lockdown’ in major cities of the province.

District administration asked to start online registrations of NGOs

Date: June 29, 2020 – Source: Dawn

Punjab Home Department has directed the district administration to start online registration of NGOs to monitor their financial matters, especially their local and foreign funding.

University of Peshawar teachers announce boycott of online classes, exams

Date: June 29, 2020 – Source: The News

The teaching fraternity of the University of Peshawar announced complete boycott of online classes and exams and other academic activities from today to press the government to lift ban on appointment and recruitment in the university.

Online seminar discusses development in tribal districts

Date: June 30, 2020 – Source: The News

An online seminar at Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan debated in detail the situation prevailing in the tribal districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.


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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