DIGITAL PAKISTAN MONITOR – August 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. 8 – August 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
Federal government approves new digital cable policy
Date: August 5, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The Nation
Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry announced that the government had approved the National Digital Cable Policy 2021 to digitize existing cable networks and increase transparency in channel ratings across Pakistan.
Government approves Rs18 billion for projects to provide high-speed broadband connectivity
Date: August 7, 2021 – Source: The News
The federal government approved Rs18 billion worth of 30 projects to provide high-speed mobile broadband connectivity across Pakistan during financial year 2021-2022.
Cellular spectrum auction in Pakistan expected to fetch $831 million
Date: August 7, 2021 – Source: The News
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) expects to raise $831 million as it invited bids from cellular and broadband operators for the sale of additional spectrum in the 1800 and 2100 Mhz bands.
Government approves additional spectrum to better connectivity in AJK, Gilgit-Baltistan
Date: August 13, 2021 – Source: Dawn
The federal approved auction of additional spectrum for the Special Communications Organization (SCO) to enhance outreach of mobile telephony and broadband services in areas of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB).
Cellular services to remain suspended during Ashura in Pakistan
Date: August 17, 2021 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: Business Recorder (BR)
The federal government issued a directive to service providers across Pakistan to suspend cellular mobile services along the route of main processions during Ashura for security purposes.
Cellular services suspended in Peshawar in wake of security threats
Date: August 19, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune
Cellular services were suspended in Peshawar as part of security measures adopted by local administration to safeguard the flow of processions ahead of Ashura.
Court directs telecommunications regulator to seek policy on TikTok from federal cabinet
Date: August 23, 2021 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: The News
The Islamabad High Court (IHC) directed Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to place the case pertaining to ban vide-sharing application TikTok before the federal cabinet before further pursuing their case.
Federal cabinet set to approve draft bill to set up umbrella media regulatory authority
Date: August 24, 2021 – Source: Dawn
The federal cabinet seems set to take up and approve the draft bill for the establishment of the Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA) despite strong opposition to the bill by media houses, workers and social media activists.
GSMA predicts low 5G connectivity in Pakistan
Date: August 25, 2021 – Source: Dawn
The Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA) projected that Pakistan will remain at the lowest end in terms of smartphone users and 5G connectivity among countries in the Asia Pacific region by 2025.
Islamabad High Court seeks report on government’s policy to ban TikTok in Pakistan
Date: August 29, 2021 – Source: The News
The Islamabad High Court (IHC) summoned a report from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) about the federal government’s policy to ban video-sharing application TikTok in Pakistan.
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
Digitizing Pakistan at a snail’s pace
Date: August 2, 2021 – Source: The News
Since Prime Minister Imran Khan launched the Digital Pakistan vision, the country witnessed unprecedented progress in terms of going digital. However, the government still seems to move at a snail’s pace to rectify the digital disparity between rural and urban users across Pakistan.
Gender aspect of digitalization in Pakistan
Date: August 16, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune
Digitalization in Pakistan can provide varied avenues for women’s social and economic empowerment. Literacy and universal primary education, however, remain key factors for building a fully inclusive digital society while paying attention to the special needs of women.
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
- Misinformation / disinformation / fake news
SECP issues draft guidelines to secure Pakistani companies’ data from cyber-attacks
Date: August 3, 2021 – Source: Dawn
The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) issued draft cloud adoption guidelines for registered companies to secure their data from cyber-attacks and digital leakages.
Phone hacking complaints on the rise in Punjab
Date: August 4, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune
The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) reported an increase in complaints regarding hacking of social media accounts and mobile devices across Punjab.
Islamabad High Court questions PTA’s authority to ban TikTok in Pakistan
Date: August 7, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The News, Source 3: Express Tribune
The Islamabad High Court (IHC) directed Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to justify its ban on video-sharing application TikTok and consult with the federal government for developing a mechanism for curbing controversial content.
Courts put blame of absolute TikTok ban on federal telecommunication authority
Date: August 8, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune
The Islamabad High Court (IHC) noted that the Peshawar High Court (PHC) and the Sindh High Court (SHC) had not ordered the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to impose an ‘absolute ban’ on video-sharing application TikTok in Pakistan.
Pakistani celebrities rally around TikTok in face of another ban
Date: August 9, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune
Social media celebrities in Pakistan appreciated the role of TikTok in providing the country’s content creators with a global platform and expressed concern at the prospect of its impending ban.
Pakistan Peoples Party decries notices to legislators over ‘contemptuous’ speeches
Date: August 9, 2021 – Source: Dawn
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) condemned the act of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) of sending notices to its lawmakers for allegedly delivering contemptuous speeches and termed it a ‘politically-motivated’ move.
Government accuses Afghanistan, India behind anti-Pakistan smear campaign on social media
Date: August 12, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The News, Source 3: Express Tribune
National Security Adviser (NSA) Moeed Yusuf said that social media accounts operated from Afghanistan and India were being used to propagate disinformation against Pakistan.
Government warns officials of cyber espionage against Pakistan
Date: August 13, 2021 – Source: The News
The government directed all federal secretaries and chief secretaries of provinces to ensure cyber security in their departments to combat Pegasus-related attempts of cyber espionage.
Federal Bureau of Revenue database compromised due to major cyberattack
Date: August 15, 2021 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: Daily Times
Hackers attacked Pakistan’s largest data center run by the Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR) and brought down all official websites managed by the state’s tax machinery compromising sensitive data.
Dacoits use social media to hurl threats at police in Rahim Yar Khan
Date: August 15, 2021 – Source: Dawn
Local dacoits in Rahim Yar Khan released an audio call and video clip on social media platforms to threat police authorities against targeting ‘innocent people’ in connection with Bhong temple attack.
Government warns citizens about anti-state propaganda on social media
Date: August 15, 2021 – Source: Dawn
Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry asked Pakistani citizens to be wary of false propaganda against Pakistan on social media platforms.
Female content creator harassed, assaulted by mob in Lahore
Date: August 18, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Express Tribune
Lahore police registered a case against hundreds of unidentified persons for harassing, assaulting and stealing from a female social media content creator and her friends while they were recording video clips at a local park in Lahore.
Mob assault on female digital content creator in Lahore triggers national outrage
Date: August 19, 2021 – Source 1: The Nation, Source 2: Asia News
Non-bailable clauses were added to the First Information Report (FIR) registered against unidentified culprits who assaulted and stole from a female TikTok content creator in Lahore after the incident sparked outrage nationwide.
Facebook, Zindagi Trust launch campaign to combat online child exploitation
Date: August 24, 2021 – Source: The News
Facebook, in collaboration with the Zindagi Trust, launched a campaign to raise awareness on eradicating online sharing of child pornography and urge people to report such content through digital channels in Pakistan.
Cybercrime in Pakistan increases by 83pc in three years
Date: August 28, 2021 – Source: The News
According to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), cybercrime in Pakistan increased by 83 per cent in the past three years with online financial frauds on the increase.
Government employees barred from using social media platforms
Date: August 28, 2021 – Source: Dawn
A notification issued by the Establishment Division (ED) of the federal government says no government servant can participate in any social media platform except with the permission of the government.
The ever-increasing need for data security in Pakistan
Date: August 30, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune
Personal data protection in Pakistan has become all the more important following recent cyberattacks on state-protected data centers. With a dedicated push, knowledge and systems can be brought on par with global standards to safeguard the country’s cyber space.
SECTION 4: Digitalization
- Digitalization in governance sectors / e-governance
- Digitalization in social and development sectors
- Digitalization in business and commercial sectors
Technology startups aim to digitally connect retailers to manufacturers in Pakistan
Date: August 2, 2021 – Source: Dawn
Aiming to tap into the behavioral shift in consumers who are increasingly turning towards online platforms for purchases, technology investors in Pakistan aim to increase investments in startups that focus on digitally linking retailers with manufacturers and consumers.
Media’s overreliance on advertisements termed a ‘politico-economic problem’ in Pakistan
Date: August 6, 2021 – Source: Dawn
The overreliance of broadcast media on advertisement has created a ‘politico-economic problem’ which can be solved by replacing at least a part of this revenue stream with subscription-generated income.
President launches project to digitize Pakistan’s state media organizations
Date: August 8, 2021 – Source: Dawn
President Dr. Arif Alvi launched a project to digitize state media organizations including the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP), Pakistan Television Corporation (PTVC), Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) and the government’s Digital Media Wing (DMW).
Pakistan becomes exporter of smartphones
Date: August 15, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Digital Pakistan
The first ever consignment of over 5,500 mobile phone handsets manufactured in Pakistan by Inovi Telecommunications was released for delivery to retailers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Information Technology promotion package sparks optimism for Pakistan’s economy, exports
Date: August 16, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune
Stakeholders from Pakistan’s information technology (IT) expressed optimism on the recently announced Rs10 billion package for promotion of information technology-enabled Services (ITeS) in the country and boost exports.
Digital audio broadcast opens in Quaid-e-Azam University
Date: August 17, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The News
Chairman of Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting Senator Faisal Javed inaugurated a digital audio broadcast (DAB) facility at Quaid-e-Azam University (QAU) in Islamabad.
Pakistani startup scores largest single private funding worth $85 million
Date: August 19, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The News, Source 3: Al Jazeera
Lahore-based online shopping delivery firm Airlift Technologies scored the largest single private funding round in Pakistan’s history worth $85 million as the country begins to join a regional startup financing boom.
Engro to inject Rs14 billion in Pakistan’s telecommunication vertical
Date: August 26, 2021 – Source: Dawn
Engro Coporation announced plans to enhance its total equity investment in Pakistan’s telecommunication infrastructure vertical to Rs21.5 billion through its wholly-owned subsidiary Engro Connect.
Mobile handset production in Pakistan exceeds imports
Date: August 27, 2021 – Source: Dawn
According to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), local companies manufactured 12.27 million mobile phone handsets compared to the imports of 8.29 million handsets during the first seven months of 2021.
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.