DIGITAL PAKISTAN MONITOR – April 2021

DIGITAL PAKISTAN MONITOR – April 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. 4 April 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

Prime Minister for improving connectivity in Gilgit-Baltistan

Date: April 3, 2021 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: Radio Pakistan, Source 3: Pakistan Today

Prime Minister Imran Khan said that the federal government is committed to improving connectivity in Gilgit-Baltistan to promote tourism in the region.

Rs2 billion contract awarded for broadband services in Kech

Date: April 3, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The Nation, Source 3: Daily Pakistan

The Universal Service Fund (USF) awarded a contract worth Rs2 billion to a mobile operator company for providing high speed mobile broadband services in Kech district of Balochistan.

Islamabad High Court gives government one month to prepare social media rules

Date: April 3, 2021 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: Pakistan Today, Source 3: The Nation

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) gave one month to the government committee to frame comprehensive social media rules in Pakistan.

Broadband subscriptions reach 100 million in Pakistan

Date: April 3, 2021 – Source 1: Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), Source 2: Dawn

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) announced that broadband subscriptions in Pakistan crossed 100 million.

Government to review social media rules In Pakistan

Date: April 5, 2021 – Source: Dawn

Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Jawed Khan assured the Islamabad High Court (IHC) that the federal government was prepared to review the controversial Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards) Rules 2020.

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

Internet disparity across Pakistan

Date: April 23, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

Pakistan seems to be on a slippery slope as the country continues to show dismal performance in international connectivity rankings. For the country to progress, develop and compete in the international arena, authorities need to ensure accessible broadband connectivity.

Internet freedom declined in Pakistan in 2020

Date: April 28, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Asia News International (ANI)

According to the Annual Pakistan Media Legal Review 2021, internet freedom in Pakistan declined in 2020 due to increased blocking of websites by the government, beefed up operationalization of an undeclared policy of connectivity restrictions and weaponization of cybercrime law as a tool.

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

Peshawar High Court lifts ban on TikTok access in Pakistan

Date: April 1, 2021 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: Digital Rights Monitor, Source 3: Newsweek Pakistan

The Peshawar High Court (PHC) directed the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to lift the ban on video-sharing platform TikTok but ensure non-access to unethical and objectionable material shared on the platform.

FIA summons political activist for blackmailing people on WhatsApp

Date: April 6, 2021 – Source: The News

Cyber Crime Cell (CCC) of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) summoned a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz activist on the charges of harassing and blackmailing people through WhatsApp.

Twitter asked to block malicious content against judiciary in Pakistan

Date: April 13, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The News, Source 3: The Nation

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) approached the top management of Twitter for extending warning to immediately remove malicious online trends and tweets vilifying superior judiciary of Pakistan.

Cellular phone services across Pakistan remain suspended

Date: April 15, 2021 – Source: The News

The signals of all cellular phone networks and internet services remained suspended due to security concerns in view of countrywide protests by a right-wing religious party.

Social media platforms shut briefly in Pakistan to pre-empt violence

Date: April 17, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The News

Access to social media networks remained blocked after the government imposed a blanket ban as part of its security plan to maintain law and order across the country and prevent violent protests by a right-wing religious political party.

Government temporarily blocks social media in Pakistan over potential protests

Date: April 18, 2021 – Source 1: Al Jazeera, Source 2: Deutsche Welle, Source 3: France 24

The federal government temporarily blocked a number of social media platforms across the country as part of a security crackdown on a far-right religious party’s call for mass demonstrations.

Blocking social media in Pakistan

Date: April 18, 2021 – Source: Dawn

Given the four-hour government-enforced shut down of social media platforms, it is another reminder of the government flexing its censorship muscle in Pakistan.

Media blackout in Pakistan

Date: April 20, 2021 – Source: Dawn

Governments in Pakistan somehow refuse to acknowledge the futility of imposing blanket bans on media coverage. With no filters for veracity, social media can be lethal if not countered with the process of verification through the mainstream media.

Federal secretary asked to expedite legislation for personal data protection in Pakistan

Date: April 21, 2021 – Source: Dawn

The Sindh High Court (SHC) directed the federal secretary of the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication to expedite the process after it was informed that the legislation of regarding personal date protection of citizens in was in the consultative phase.

Over 19,000 social media accounts taken down for inciting hate in Pakistan

Date: April 25, 2021 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: Daily Times, Source 3: Digital Rights Monitor

The National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) maintained that more than 19,000 social media accounts had been taken down for inciting hate and spreading terrorism in the country.

SECTION 4: Digitalization

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

Text message service launched to update complainants about FIR status in Islamabad

Date: April 4, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The News, Source 3: Tribune Express

The Investigation Wing of Islamabad Police launched a short message service that will update complaints on the status of their first information reports (FIRs).

State, citizens and social media in Pakistan

Date: April 4, 2021 – Source: The News

A large number of bureaucrats in Pakistan actively use social media platforms to engage with citizens. This trend in Pakistan needs to be encouraged and incoming civil servants should be trained on proper use of social media.

Digital transformation in Pakistan’s agriculture sector

Date: April 5, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

Being an agrarian country, any reform in the economy to bring down inflation without transforming the agriculture sector using digitalization is not sustainable.

Regulatory authority launches CERT portal for telecommunication sector in Pakistan

Date: April 6, 2021 – Source: The News

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) launched the Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT) portal for the telecommunication sector in Pakistan.

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority launches online system for blocking stolen handsets

Date: April 8, 2021 – Source: Dawn

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) launched an automated Lost and Stolen Device System (LSDS) for blocking lost, stolen and snatched mobile handsets.

Import ban encourages smuggling of drones into Pakistan

Date: April 10, 2021 – Source: Dawn

Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry implied that the import ban on drones into Pakistan encourages smuggling of such equipment into the country.

Start-up looks to reshape retail sector in Pakistan

Date: April 11, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

A technology start-up, Ucaaz, aims to improve customer experience in Pakistan through deploying artificial intelligence for assistance in stores.

The case for online hearings in Pakistan

Date: April 11, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

As the backlog of cases in Pakistan builds up exponentially due to the coronavirus pandemic, the need for courts to follow the lead of their global peers of establishing an effective online hearing system has never been stronger.

Federal Education Ministry launches initiative of blending e-learning in Pakistan

Date: April 13, 2021 – Source: The News

The Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training launched an initiative of blending online education with traditional classroom methods to promote research and intuitive learning across Pakistan.

Cellphone imports into Pakistan surge

Date: April 18, 2021 – Source: The News

Pakistan’s import of mobile handsets swelled by 56 per cent to $1.54 billion in the first nine months of 2020-21.

Pandemic and the rise of online food businesses in Pakistan

Date: April 21, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

The ongoing pandemic led has led to an increase in home-run business operating online. Many of these new food businesses are run by housewives to shoulder their family’s worsening financial situation.

Foreign Office holds social media training for Pakistani envoys

Date: April 22, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

A virtual capacity building training workshop was organized by the Foreign Office of Pakistan for the country’s envoys on usage of social media for government correspondence.

Online banking transactions in Pakistan increase by 200%

Date: April 22, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

According to a report published by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), the amount of e-banking transactions within Pakistan recorded an increase by 200% during pandemic restrictions.

Pakistanis rally support for India on Twitter

Date: April 24, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

Twitter users in Pakistan called on their government to help Indian authorities cope with the shortage of oxygen for patients in hospitals while Indians thanked them for their digital effort.

Digitizing Pakistan’s parliament

Date: April 25, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Express Tribune

In a meeting on the President’s Initiative for Cyber Efficient Parliament, President Arif Alvi expressed his desire to see parliamentary operations in Pakistan to be completely digitized by 2023.

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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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