DIGITAL PAKISTAN MONITOR – March 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. 3 March 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

Government approves broadband connectivity for Karakoram Highway

Date: March 6, 2021 – Source: Dawn

The Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication approved the provision of broadband services to the Karakoram Highway and establishment of information technology institutions across Pakistan.

4G broadband services to be launched in Azad Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan

Date: March 21, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Pakistan Today, Source 3: Daily Pakistan

The federal government announced plans to launch 4G broadband services in Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

Government forms inter-ministerial body to review social media rules in Pakistan

Date: March 31, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Pakistan Today, Source 3: The Nation

Prime Minister Imran Khan constituted an inter-ministerial committee to review the recently introduced and social media rules after criticism from various stakeholders.

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

Online attacks on women journalists in Pakistan condemned

Date: March 8, 2021 – Source: Media Matters for Democracy (MMFD)

Media Matters for Democracy, a media rights organization, expressed concerns over the continued acts of online intimidation and harassment against women journalists to either silence critical voices or prevent them from carrying out their professional responsibilities.

Online feminism in Pakistan

Date: March 10, 2021 – Source: Dawn

Women in Pakistan have built strong networks of support online. Women are also using online forums in informal ways to defend those subjected to cyber harassment, enabling connections to facilitate provision of justice and providing counseling.

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 to use cryptography for protection of classified state communication

Date: March 9, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

Viewing cryptography as a crucial protective tool, the federal government discussed plans to give security cover to the classified state communication by evolving cryptographic and communication security to documents and equipment in the face of growing threat of cyber-attacks.

TikTok faces ban over ‘immoral content’ in Pakistan

Date: March 12, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

The Peshawar High Court (PHC) ordered the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to ban social media platform TikTok in Pakistan citing publication of ‘immoral content’.

Aurat March organizers claim their videos doctored to defame their cause

Date: March 12, 2021 – Source: Dawn

The organizers of Aurat March clarified that the videos of participants from the rallies were doctored and distributed online to press baseless blasphemy charges and defame their struggle for gender equality and women rights.

Federal Minister warns against consequences of TikTok ban

Date: March 13, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

In reaction to the Peshawar High Court’s (PHC) decision to ban short-video streaming application TikTok, Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry warned that Pakistan might have to pay ‘a huge price’ with such developments.

Probe launched into ‘controversial’ online content being circulated about Aurat March

Date: March 15, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The News

Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Inter-Faith Harmony Pir Noorul Haq Qadri said that a probe was ordered by government to reach the truth regarding ‘controversial’ content and video clips circulated on social media from speeches at the Aurat March.

Pakistan People’s Party fears government may destroy spy camera evidence

Date: March 15, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The News

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) expressed fears that the government may destroy evidence of the spy camera scandal during Senate elections on the pretext of disinfection of the Parliament House building.

Peshawar High Court bans TikTok in Pakistan until content filtering mechanism in place

Date: March 17, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Pakistan Today

The Peshawar High Court (PHC) ruled that objectionable and indecent material was being uploaded on TikTok without restriction in violation of Islamic values and that the ban on the vide-sharing platform will continue in Pakistan until a mechanism is in place to filter such content.

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government opposes ban on TikTok

Date: March 26, 2021 – Source: The News

The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government opposed a ban on short-video sharing digital application TikTok imposed by the Peshawar High Court (PHC).

SECTION 4: Digitalization

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

Pakistan produces 1.1 million cellphones

Date: March 4, 2021 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: Gulf News

Pakistan’s mobile phone assembly segment grew and produced 1.1 million mobile handsets during the first two months of 2021.

Government grants industry status to telecommunication sector in Pakistan

Date: March 12, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The News, Source 3: Pakistan Today

The government granted industry status to the telecommunication sector in Pakistan for seamless development of various projects and to enjoy the benefits at par with other industries.

Mobile phone users in Pakistan to pay lower advance income tax

Date: March 14, 2021 – Source: The News

The federal cabinet approved gradual reduction in advance income tax on purchase of mobile phone handsets in Pakistan.

2G compatible mobile phone sets: A barrier to broadband growth in Pakistan

Date: March 15, 2021 – Source: Dawn

Chief Operating Officer of Jazz Aamir Ibrahim opined that expansion of the outreach of 4G within Pakistan faces barriers as around 90% of mobile phone handsets in the country were only compatible with 2G technology.

Technology startups in Pakistan and their blame-thy-government policy

Date: March 15, 2021 – Source: Dawn

Pakistan’s private sector has often used the government’s inefficiencies as an excuse for its mediocrity. Such an approach has led to technology startups in the country to develop a particularly rent-seeking behavior.

Old Lahore’s city décor mesmerizes the cyberspace

Date: March 15, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

The Walled City of Lahore Authority’s (WCLA) recent restoration and beautification of some of the city’s older areas created a buzz in the country after aesthetic images and videos were shared on social media platforms.

State Bank of Pakistan takes steps to promote technology startups in Pakistan

Date: March 16, 2021 – Source: The News

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) announced initiatives to provide an enabling environment for the information and technology startups and women financial inclusion in the country.

Information technology exports from Pakistan increase by 40%

Date: March 16, 2021 – Source: Dawn

Exports of Information technology-related services from Pakistan increased by 40 per cent in the first half of Fiscal Year 2021.

Cell phone imports in Pakistan surge to $1.31 billion

Date: March 17, 2021 – Source: Dawn

Pakistan’s cell phone imports swelled by 51.5 per cent to $1.31 billion during the first eight months of Fiscal Year-2021.

Banks in Pakistan to implement digital portals

Date: March 17, 2021 – Source: The News

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) advised all banks operating in the country to implement digital portals for end-to-end digitalization of case submission and processing.

VEON acquires Abu Dhabi group stake in Jazz for $273 million

Date: March 23, 2021 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Pakistan Today, Source 3: Arab News

The Dutch telecommunication giant VEON Limited bought all stakes in its telecommunication venture from the UAE-based Abu Dhabi group in Jazz Pakistan.

Digital transformation to bring economic prosperity in Pakistan

Date: March 25, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Syed Aminul Haque said that the government has envisioned digital transformation as a source of empowering citizens and bring prosperity to the vulnerable segments of the society.

State Bank of Pakistan prepares Digital Bank Regulatory Framework

Date: March 27, 2021 – Source: Express Tribune

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) developed a draft of the Digital Bank Regulatory Framework for public consultation and placed it on the bank’s website for feedback from the industry.

Federal Board of Revenue starts digital mapping of urban centers in Punjab

Date: March 29, 2021 – Source: The News

The Board of Revenue (FBR) Punjab launched digital mapping of all urban centers including Lahore under the foreign-funded $150 million project called the ‘Cadaster of Punjab’.

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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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