DIGITAL MONITOR PAKISTAN – December 2020

DIGITAL PAKISTAN MONITOR – December 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. 12 December 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

Prime Minister Imran Khan unfollows everyone on Twitter

Date: December 8, 2020 – Source: The News

Prime Minister Imran Khan unfollowed all accounts he previously followed on Twitter, the micro-blogging social networking site.

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority claims wrong impression created about social media rules

Date: December 12, 2020 – Source: Dawn

Responding to concerns expressed by the Asia Internet Coalition (AIC) over the recently enacted social media rules, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) stated that prejudiced and wrong impressions were being created about these rules.

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority approves consultant for spectrum auction

Date: December 17, 2020 – Source Dawn

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) finalized a United-Kingdom-based consulting firm for the spectrum auction of 1800MHz and 2100MHz bands.

Fiber optic cable to improve connectivity in Gwadar

Date: December 18, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

The Pakistan Telecommunications Company Limited (PTCL) laid a new fiber optic cable in Gwadar to improve connectivity in the region and support industrial communication.

High-speed mobile internet facility for unserved and under-served areas of Pakistan soon

Date: December 21, 2020 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The News

The Universal Service Fund (USF) decided to award contracts worth approximately Rs8.81 billion to provide high-speed mobile broadband services to more than six million people in un-served and under-served areas of Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and tribal areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Government to set up drone regulatory body

Date: December 23, 2020 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: Express Tribune

The government has decided to set up a drone regulatory authority for an effective use of the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology in various fields, including agriculture, urban planning, security and, law and order.

Prime Minister directs countering of India’s digital warfare

Date: December 31, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

Prime Minister Imran Khan directed relevant authorities to counter the misinformation and negative propaganda spread by the Indian media against Pakistan and its institutions.

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

Combating the Covid-19 disinfodemic and ensuring digital literacy in Pakistan

Date: December 1, 2020 – Source: Digital Rights Foundation (DRF)

As Pakistan goes through the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, there is a dire need to launch digital literacy programs and equip citizens to identify and counter fake news.

The digital divide in Pakistan

Date: December 17, 2020 – Source: Dawn

An extensively digitalized Pakistan is likely to be a highly digitally colonized country. Enacting a law is not enough unless Pakistan also exercises caution in entering into international commitments that would allow digital access to its assets and industries and dilute its ability to enforce rights domestically.

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

PFUJ rejects new rules to block online content

Date: December 2, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) rejected the ‘Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Protection, Oversight and Safeguards) 2020 and termed these as ‘black regulations’.

Cyber harassment cases double in a year in Pakistan

Date: December 3, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

According to the Federal Investigation Authority (FIA), cyber harassment applications to the agency have doubled. The agency received 16,000 applications this year compared to 8,000 in 2019.

Islamabad High Court chief justice questions new social media rules

Date: December 5, 2020 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: Dawn

Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Athar Minallah questioned the framing of new rules for social media and observed that such rules would discourage criticism and adversely affect accountability in the country.

Pakistan Peoples Party condemns ‘digital dictatorship’ in Pakistan

Date: December 5, 2020 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: Business Recorder

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) condemned what it called ‘digital dictatorship’ which the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led government aimed to impose through the recently-announced social media rules while reiterating its support for digital freedoms in Pakistan.

Nawaz Sharif exhorts party’s social media team to work without fear of deterrence

Date: December 7, 2020 – Source: Dawn

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supreme leader Nawaz Sharif exhorted his party’s social media team to work without being deterred by any unconstitutional forces in the country.

European NGO uncovers Indian disinformation operation against Pakistan

Date: December 10, 2020 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: Dawn, Source 3: Al Jazeera

DisinfoLab, a European Union-based independent non-profit organization, exposed the latest iteration of a 15-year-old Indian disinformation and influence operation aimed at defaming Pakistan within European Union institutions.

BBC denudes India’s fake media outlets to discredit Pakistan

Date: December 11, 2020 – The News

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported that numerous defunct organizations were resurrected and used alongside at least 750 fake media and digital outlets to discredit India’s neighboring countries including Pakistan.

India shamed over anti-Pakistan disinformation network

Date: December 11, 2020 – Dawn

Authorities in Pakistan and international news networks shamed India a day after the disclosure of a disinformation network being run for 15 years to discredit nations it is in conflict with.

Capital police books citizen for ‘instigating army officials’ online

Date: December 12, 2020 – Source: The News

The capital police registered a criminal case against a citizen, Ahmad Waqas Goraya, for instigating army officials against the armed forces through his personal Twitter account.

Being secure in a digital world

Date: December 13, 2020 – Source: The News

The world is fast becoming a digital one. The new digital authentication regime will not only address the impersonation issue but will also act as a foundation for a paperless, cashless, and presence-less regime, wherein the front-end bureaucracy will have absolutely no physical interaction with citizens.

Google, YouTube outages hit daily work in Pakistan

Date: December 15, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

Many business as well as daily life activities were disturbed in Pakistan after Google services, Gmail and YouTube faced outages.

The disinformation network

Date: December 18, 2020 – Source: The News

The expose of the huge Indian propaganda and disinformation machinery highlights the theatre is shifting and is now becoming increasingly dependent on the expertise and skill set of public information professionals. The era of cyber warfare has come a full circle.

Islamabad High Court admits petition against social media rules

Date: December 19, 2020 – Source: Dawn

Chief Justice of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) Justice Athar Minallah admitted the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists’ (PFUJ) petition for regular hearing against the recently enforced social media rules.

Statement: Freedom of expression vital for Pakistan’s progress

Date: December 19, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Athar Minallah noted that a country where freedom of expression is suppressed remains economically backward. The court was hearing a petition against the new social media rules filed the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ).

Lahore Development Authority to ban misleading advertisements on social media

Date: December 23, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

The Lahore Development Authority (LDA) approached the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to impose a ban on social media misleading advertisements of unapproved or illegal housing schemes in Lahore division.

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority issues notices to Google, Wikipedia over sacrilegious content

Date: December 26, 2020 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: Dawn, Source 3: The Nation

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) issued notices to Google Inc. and Wikipedia over complaints of disseminating sacrilegious content through their platforms.

Ensuring Information integrity

Date: December 28, 2020 – Source: Dawn

Whereas disinformation and propaganda campaigns are nothing new in the international relations arena, it is highly concerning how sophisticated strategies are being employed by Indian groups using a mix of traditional platforms such as the United Nations and defunct NGOs.

Lahore High Court questions FIA jurisdiction over case against Google

Date: December 29, 2020 – Source: Dawn

Hearing a petition against the government’s failure to remove blasphemous content from the internet, Lahore High Court (LHC) Chief Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan questioned a federal law office over the jurisdiction of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to lodge cases against digital search engines.

Ehsaas to invite hackers to identify digital security vulnerabilities

Date: December 31, 2020 – Source: The News

Government authorities announced plans to organize a hacker’s competition to outline its vulnerabilities as part of implementing a Vulnerability Disclosure Policy (VDP) intended to give ethical hackers clear guidelines for submitting potentially unknown and harmful security vulnerabilities.

SECTION 4: Digitalization

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

Federal Directorate of Education adopts e-office systems

Date: December 1, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

The Federal Directorate of Education (FDE), the body that oversees federal government educational instructions in in the federal capital, has switched to the E-Office system to improve efficiency in service provision and administrative affairs.

Drug regulatory body launches innovative online platform

Date: December 3, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

The Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) launched the Pakistan Integrated Regulatory Information Management System (PIRIMS) – an online platform that will enable the government to effectively evaluate the safety and effectiveness of medicines.

Mobile handset assembly set to expand in Pakistan

Date: December 3, 2020 – Source: Dawn

Mobile handset manufacturers in Pakistan assured the advancement of their capacity to ensure local assembly of such devices under the Mobile Device Manufacturing Policy approved by the federal cabinet earlier this year.

Digital banking fast replacing conventional transactions in Pakistan

Date: December 4, 2020 – Source: Dawn

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), in its Quarterly Payment System Review for July-September 2020-2021, noted a strong growth in e-commerce transactions signaling the trend among consumers to increasingly use digital payment gateways.

UNDP to help set up 14 virtual courts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Date: December 4, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP), along with partner civil society organizations and other international partners, announced to set up 14 virtual courts and police stations in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The partnership also plans to organize training workshops for policemen in the province.

Digital banking users surge by 36% in Pakistan

Date: December 4, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

At the launch of its quarterly financial report, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) announced that digital banking users in Pakistan had surged by 36% to 13.22 million.

Prime Minister stresses on Citizen Portal’s efficacy as the first step towards digitalization

Date: December 5, 2020 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: Dawn, Source 3: Express Tribune

Prime Minister Imran Khan stressed that the Pakistan Citizens Portal (PCP), government’s online complaint resolution forum, was the first step towards digitalization in public service provision and empowering the country’s citizens.

Digital portal launched for beneficiaries of ‘Ehsaas Kafaalat’ program

Date: December 6, 2020 – Source: The News

The government launched a digital portal to address complaints regarding biometric failures by beneficiaries of its flagship ‘Ehsaas Kafaalat’ social security program.

Can a digital safety application protect women in Pakistan?

Date: December 6, 2020 – Source: The News

Women safety applications are a regular feature worldwide. While the use of technology can be an effective means in helping facilitate redressal and access to justice, the real problem remains unmitigated. Male members of the society need to be sensitized to such issues.

Pakistan boosts work on common signal transmission towers

Date: December 6, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

Pakistan – having 169 million mobile phone connections in a total population of 208 million people – has ramped up work on common signal transmission towers, instead of exclusive ones as competition between major telecommunications operators grows tougher on price and services.

Punjab targets paperless citizen-centric administrative system

Date: December 7, 2020 – Source: Dawn

The Punjab government announced plans to fully automate its processes related to payments, expenditure, and taxes as well as other receipts to improve financial governance in the province.

Supreme Court of Pakistan hears first case using e-court system

Date: December 8, 2020 – Source: Dawn

In a first, the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) allowed senior counsel to argue a case via video link utilizing the newly integrated e-court facility.

Too many applications can spoil online learning in Pakistan

Date: December 9, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

Teachers and parents fear that the large number of distant learning applications available freely take the focus away from learning. This influx raised concerns regarding the quality, privacy and digital safety of all users.

Utility Store Corporation to be hooked with central information system

Date: December 9, 2020 – Source: Dawn

All offices, warehouses and retail outlets of the Utility Store Corporation (USC) are planned to be connected to a central information system. This will enable managers of the state-run corporation to maintain integrated data resources and increase efficiency.

Mobile phone imports jump 90% in Pakistan

Date: December 10, 2020 – Source: Dawn

Legal mobile phone imports in Pakistan increased by more than 90 per cent since the implementation of the Device Identification Registration and Blocking System (DRIBS) in 2018.

Educationists urge quality control for online education in South Asia

Date: December 11, 2020 – Dawn

An online conference of educationists from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) urged member countries to maintain quality control for online education during and after the coronavirus pandemic.

Tackling illicit trade with technology and institutional digitization in Pakistan

Date: December 11, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Institutional Reforms Ishrat Hussain said that the challenge of illicit trade in Pakistan can be tackled through technology and institutional digitization.

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority claims new online content rules not to harm businesses

Date: December 12, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) stated that the ‘The Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards), Rules 2020’ would pave the way for better investment opportunities for technology companies, while remaining compliant with local laws.

Plan to set up mobile manufacturing plants in Pakistan hits snags

Date: December 12, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

The plan to set up local mobile handset manufacturing plants in Pakistan by leading information technology firms hit a snag as the authorities failed to implement the mobile manufacturing policy approved by the federal cabinet.

Branchless banking: growth in Pakistan but not without caveats

Date: December 14, 2020 – Source: Dawn

Pakistan’s branchless banking industry has been bustling with activity, thanks to aggressive efforts by the regulator. However, the growth in transactions include those completed via an agent and therefore also reflect an increase in over-the-counter transactions.

UNICEF, Facebook promote immunization in Pakistan

Date: December 15, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) joined hands with Facebook to digitally reach out to people in Pakistan and spread information about vaccination and its benefits.

Chamber of Industry officials urge development of communication services

Date: December 15, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) President Mian Tariq Misbah urged authorities in Pakistan to develop communication services in the country to promote business integration and international collaborations.

Digitization crucial to rebuilding Pakistan’s economy

Date: December 15, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

Speaking at plenary of the 23rd Sustainable Development Conference in Islamabad, Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Secretary-General Vladimir Norov emphasized on member countries to fast-track digitization to rebuild their economies.

Dangers of electronic waste in Pakistan

Date: December 15, 2020 – Source: The News

Adopting new technologies cannot make Pakistan a developed country unless citizens learn how to use them sustainably and in an environmentally conscious manner. Authorities should pursue awareness initiatives to educate masses and develop actionable plans to mitigate electronic waste (e-waste).

Online module for green field industry launched in Pakistan

Date: December 17, 2020 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: Federal Board of Revenue (FBR)

To promote investment in the Green Field Industry and to facilitate investors, the Federal Bureau of Investment (FBR) launched an online module in Iris for e-filing of applications for the grant of Green Field Industry status.

Over 500 Japanese IT firms keen to invest in Pakistan

Date: December 19, 2020 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: The Nation, Source 3: Pakistan Today

Over 500 Japanese information technology firms expressed eagerness to invest in Pakistan and increase exchange of skilled human resource between Japan and Pakistan.

Lahore High Court records to be digitized soon

Date: December 20, 2020 – Source: Dawn

Lahore High Court (LHC) Chief Justice Qasim Ali Khan informed the Taxila bar that court records remained in the process of being digitized for prompt disposal of cases.

Digital applications gain edge over banks in Pakistan

Date: December 20, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

An increased number of banking consumers in Pakistan now consider digital applications over conventional banking channels useful due to stable and low fee coupled with a hassle-free transactions. The country is making full efforts to enhance digital remittances in the country.

State Bank of Pakistan prepares for digital shift in Pakistan

Date: December 22, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) revealed plans to offer innovative digital facilities to banking consumers in the country. These include domestic digital on-boarding, digital loan application and financial inclusion initiatives through digitization.

Nine information technology parks to be set up in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Date: December 23, 2020 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: Dawn

Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Technology Board announced to jointly work on the establishment of software technology parks in nine districts of the province.

PFUJ launches Twitter account, Facebook page

Date: December 23, 2020 – Source: Dawn

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) expressed pleasure at the launching of its official Facebook page and Twitter account as means of expanding their digital outreach.

Information technology exports from Pakistan surge 39 percent in July-November

Date: December 24, 2020 – Source: The News

The Ministry of Commerce announced that exports of information technology and related services from Pakistan surged around 39 percent during the first five months of the current fiscal year.

Poverty jinxes online education in Punjab

Date: December 24, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

Issues related to poverty in Punjab have hampered the ability of students to benefit from online education initiatives in the province. Experts have suggested the government to facilitate students with free internet hotspots and reduced taxes on internet connections to allow for better connectivity.

Virtual sessions suggested for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assembly

Date: December 26, 2020 – Source: The News

Khyber Paktunkhwa Assembly Deputy Speaker Mahmood Jan suggested virtual assembly sessions to counter challenges posed by pandemic restrictions on parliamentary proceedings in the province.

The year on TikTok – stories from Pakistan’s most rapidly growing video sharing application

Date: December 27, 2020 – Source: Dawn

TikTok has become Pakistan’s most rapidly growing video sharing application with users from all social classes taking to its platform to share their daily routine and unique talents.

Wasted year for the telecommunications sector in Pakistan

Date: December 28, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

Broadband users in Pakistan continued to avail internet services that were expensive, inaccessible and of poor quality in 2020. The country remained lagging behind all regional countries in the telecommunications space.

Government working to develop Pakistan Business Portal

Date: December 31, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

The government announced plans to prioritizing the development of the Pakistan Business Portal which will act as a virtual one-stop platform for businesses and firms and reduce compliance requirements.

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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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