DIGITAL PAKISTAN MONITOR – August 2022
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. 3, No. 8 – August 2022 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 mulling to auction off 5 to 10 MHz spectrum
Date: August 3, 2022 – Source: The News
The federal government is exploring options to sell off 5 to 10 megahertz (MHz) spectrum in an order to fetch $150 to $300 million into the national exchequer.
Government plans to auction 2100 MHz spectrum
Date: August 4, 2022 – Source: Dawn
The federal government decided to hold a spectrum auction of 2100MHz ban in 2×5 bandwidth for ten years for the Next Generation of Mobile Services (NGMs) although three out of four existing cellular operators had opposed the fresh auction.
Government aiming at improving broadband services in Pakistan
Date: August 4, 2022 – Source: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)
Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue Miftah Ismail presided over the first meeting of the spectrum auction advisory committee and assured the government’s intent at improving cellular and broadband services across Pakistan.
Cellular services in areas of Pakistan suspended due to security concerns
Date: August 9, 2022 – Source: The News
According to Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), mobile phone services were suspended in specific areas of different Pakistani cities to ensure law and order during movement of Ashura processions.
PTCL trials one terabit per second internet speed in Pakistan
Date: August 11, 2022 – Source: Dawn
The Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) conducted the country’s first trial of one terabit – one trillion bits or pieces of binary data – transport capacity per wavelength in collaboration with Nokia in a live network environment.
Submarine cable fault causes internet disruption across Pakistan
Date: August 12, 2022 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Express Tribune
Users across Pakistan suffered prolonged outages in broadband and cellular internet services due to a technical fault in the Pakistan Telecommunication Limited’s (PTCL) under-sea optic fiber network.
Pakistani telecommunication operators fear upcoming spectrum auction will be ‘one-horse race’
Date: August 20, 2022 – Source: Dawn
Telecommunication operators in Pakistan believe that the upcoming spectrum auction announced by the federal government may be another ‘one-horse race’ as licenses on offer will expire after a 10-year period rather than 15-years.
Internet, cellular services restored in Pakistan after disruption
Date: August 20, 2022 – Source: Dawn
Internet and cellular services in Pakistan were restored after heavy rainfall in upper Sindh caused disruptions in the cable fiber systems of Pakistan Telecommunication Limited (PTCL).
Internet outages expected across Pakistan due to unprecedented flooding
Date: August 25, 2022 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Arab News
Internet users across Pakistan are expected to face internet outages as draining out flood water, which is causing cuts and damages to fiber optic cables, continues in upper Sindh.
Internet services hindered in Balochistan due to torrential rains
Date: August 31, 2022 – Source: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)
According to Pakistan Telecommunication Limited (PTCL), internet services in nearly 80 per cent area of Balochistan were suspended due to faults in the optic fiber cable network caused by torrential rains and flash floods.
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
Digital safety workshop series launched at public schools in Pakistan
Date: August 24, 2022 – Source: The News
Video-sharing platform TikTok and the Zindagi Trust launched a series of workshops at the latter’s network of public schools across Pakistan to spread awareness about digital safety among students, teachers and parents.
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
Federal Investigation Agency launches crackdown on cyber, anti-social elements
Date: August 4, 2022 – Source: The News
The Cyber Crime Circle (CCC) of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) launched a crackdown on child pornographers and activists of the ‘dark web’ involved in sexual online harassment, blackmailing and digital theft.
Pakistani military criticizes ‘regretful’ social media campaign in wake of chopper crash
Date: August 6, 2022 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The News, Source 3: Express Tribune
Pakistan’s armed forces, in an official statement, condemned what it called ‘hurtful and derogatory’ comments published on social media forums following the helicopter crash in which six army officers were killed.
Prime Minister appoints ex-PTI member as focal person to fight war of digital narratives
Date: August 6, 2022 – Source: Express Tribune
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif appointed Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) expelled former information secretary Ahmad Jawad as his focal person on digital media and technologies to fight the batter of narratives and counter PTI on social media.
Federal Investigation Agency opens probe into online hate campaign against martyrs
Date: August 8, 2022 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: Arab News
The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) opened an investigation into the spread of negative propaganda on social media platforms against officers killed in the helicopter crash in Balochistan.
Prime Minister criticizes ‘shameful’ online trolling of martyrs
Date: August 8, 2022 – Source: The News
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif warned against a ‘self-righteous political narrative’ propagated online against army officers killed in a helicopter crash in Balochistan and urged the nation to reflect on the issue.
Online smear campaign: Probe team reconstituted as Joint Investigation Team with intel officers
Date: August 9, 2022 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The News, Source 3: The News
The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) team – formed to trace and arrest those running a negative social media campaign on the army helicopter crash in Balochistan – was reconstituted and converted into a joint investigation team (JIT) with representation from intelligence agencies.
Federal government sees India, others behind PTI’s online ‘anti-army campaign’
Date: August 18, 2022 – Source: Dawn
Federal Minister for Defense Khawaja Asif blamed Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan for ‘patronizing’ close aide Dr Shahbaz Gill and others to launch a ‘derogatory’ social media campaign against the armed forces, alleging that it was a joint-project between India and the PTI.
PEMRA bans live broadcast of Imran Khan’s speeches
Date: August 21, 2022 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Express Tribune, Source 3: Al Jazeera
Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) imposed a ban on live telecast of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan’s speeches after he criticized police and other institutions in a speech in Islamabad.
178 social media accounts linked to PTI in ‘anti-army’ campaign probe
Date: August 24, 2022 – Source: Dawn
An inquiry report on negative propaganda against the army on social media after a helicopter crash founds links to 178 social media accounts to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).
Government asks India to unblock Twitter handles operated by Pakistani missions
Date: August 30, 2022 – Source: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)
Pakistan called upon India to immediately reverse the blockage of Twitter handles operated by its missions and the transmission of Radio Pakistan (RP) to adhere to the established norms of freedom of expression and online free speech.
SECTION 4: Digitalization
- Digitalization in governance sectors / e-governance
- Digitalization in social and development sectors
- Digitalization in business and commercial sectors
TikTok launches dedicated creator portal for Pakistan
Date: August 2, 2022 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Arab News
Video-sharing digital platform TikTok launched its dedicated Creator Portal for Pakistani content creators, a one-stop shop for educational resources on content creators on its digital application.
Mastercard New Payments Index 2022: Consumers in Pakistan embrace digital payments
Date: August 3, 2022 – Source: Mastercard (MC)
Adoption of a broader range of digital payments methods is accelerating in Pakistan. According to Mastercard New Payments Index 2022, consumers are actively using facilities such as digital cards, biometric payments, online banking, and Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) tools.
Pakistan treads towards information technology revolution
Date: August 8, 2022 – Source: Express Tribune
A number of successful technology startups like Careem, Daraz and Zameen.pk are bringing additional investments to Pakistan. Traditional investors from other Pakistani sectors like textile and fertilizers are also taking interest in the startup ecosystem.
Pakistan’s first food security information system in works
Date: August 9, 2022 – Source: Dawn
A ‘future-ready food information security system’ is being developed at the Ministry of National Food Security and Research (MNFSR) to monitor the supply, demand, and prices of essential agricultural food commodities and their seasonal availability for policy feedback and decision-making.
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.