DIGITAL PAKISTAN MONITOR – May 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. 5 – May 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
Punjab government to suspend cellular services at 350 places across province
Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz approved the suspension of mobile phone services at 350 places across the province on the advice of security officials responsible for managing affairs relating to a countrywide long march announced by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).
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
Date: May 6, 2022 – Source: Dawn
Social media platforms will continue to rapidly grow, change and morph as newer technology using metaverse, web3 and IOT further unravels. Pakistan needs to keep pace with these developments. The population is rapidly becoming aware of the power of social media and its influence on decision-making.
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
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa health department to monitor social media activities of employees
The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa health department decided to monitor the use of social media by its employees for action against those making critical comments relating to government policies and its initiatives in the province.
Date: May 3, 2022 – Source: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)
Doctors and paramedics employed by the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa health department criticized the provincial department’s move to initiate action against those opposing government policies on social media.
Federal government announces action against ‘immoral’ online content
Federal Minister for Interior Rana Sanaullah said that the federal government would target ‘immoral videos’ on social media, launching a crackdown on people spreading them with the intention of defaming individuals and character assassination.
Government orders withdrawal of PECA law appeal filed by Federal Investigation Agency
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif ordered the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to withdraw a petition filed in the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP), challenging the Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) judgement that declared Section 20 of the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) ‘unconstitutional’.
Date: May 8, 2022 – Source: Express Tribune
Three major private banks operating in Pakistan were targeted in a major cybercrime incident right before a national holiday. As the popularity of internet-based solutions grows, so does the interest of international hackers and cybercriminals in the country.
FIA warns overseas Pakistanis against uploading seditious videos, posts on social media
The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) warned overseas Pakistanis who are allegedly involved in committing offences on social media that their names can be put on the Exit Control List (ECL) and red notices through Interpol to arrest them can be issued.
PTI worker jailed for uploading fake video involving Maryam Nawaz
A local court sent a detained Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) worker to the jail on a 14-day judicial remand in Peshawar on the charge of sharing a ‘deepfake’ video of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice-president Maryam Nawaz on social media.
Inquiry brought against Pakistani journalist under cybercrime act
Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) launched a probe and summoned anchorperson and social media activist Sami Abraham under Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) on accusations of levelling false allegations against senior government functionaries.
Date: May 12, 2022 – Source: Dawn
The Islamabad High Court (IHC) referred the social media rules to the National Assembly (NA) speaker for review and to make necessary amendments to ensure freedom of expression in Pakistan.
Date: May 12, 2022 – Source: Express Tribune
The federal government formed a committee to probe the causes of frequent cyber-attacks on public and private institutions in Pakistan. It also urged provincial governments to shift their data to the secure system of National Telecommunication Corporation (NTC).
Date: May 13, 2022 – Source: Dawn
A Lahore High Court (LHC) larger bench took strong exception to undue criticism on the judiciary and issued warning to a lawyer representing Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) against uploading videos on social media with vilifying content regarding judges.
Sindh government announces action against social media users uploading ‘anti-state’ content
The Sindh government assigned provincial security agencies the task to comb out those who are spreading ‘venomous material’ on social media and ‘brainwashing’ youngsters against the state and its institutions.
Court asks government, PTA to take action against Geert Wilder’s blasphemous tweets
The Islamabad High Court (IHC) instructed the Ministry of Information Technology and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to take measures against blasphemous tweets by Geert Wilders to ‘protect the religious emotions of Muslims’.
Date: May 17, 2022 – Source: Dawn
Acting on a complaint, the Federal Investigation Authority (FIA) arrested two people in Lahore and booked them for uploading and sharing blasphemous content on their social media accounts.
Date: May 20, 2022 – Source: Dawn
Releasing its first five-year online harassment report, Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) said its helpline received over 11,600 online harassment complaints in the last five years in Pakistan.
PTA takes down fake Twitter accounts impersonating Pakistani army officers
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) blocked two fake Twitter handles associated with two retired officers of the Pakistan Army, promoting narrative of a political party.
SECTION 4: Digitalization
- Digitalization in governance sectors / e-governance
- Digitalization in social and development sectors
- Digitalization in business and commercial sectors
Date: May 1, 2022 – Source: Dawn
Three telecommunications operators reached out to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) for the reversal of the recently imposed 100 per cent cash margin requirement for the import of ‘almost all’ telecom-related equipment that these companies import from outside Pakistan.
Date: May 14, 2022 – Source: Arab News
Information technology and digital experts, speaking at the Future Fest 2022, called for making ne emerging skills part of curriculum in Pakistani educational institutions to help youth earn valuable foreign exchange.
Date: May 19, 2022 – Source: Digital Pakistan (DP)
The federal government is set to increase regulatory duty on mobile handsets imported into Pakistan, primarily to stabilize the country’s balance of payment. The potential new duties will vary between Rs6,000 to Rs44,000 on a single imported handheld device.
GSMA seeks abolition of advance tax on telecommunication services in Pakistan
For improving the affordability of mobile services and encouraging the adoption of communication services, especially for lower income segments in Pakistan, the Global Mobile Industry Association (GSMA) proposed the gradual abolishment of Advance Income Tax on telecommunication services.
Date: May 23, 2022 – Source: The News
Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Syed Amin-ul-Haq said that Pakistan’s information technology (IT) exports would touch $3 billion mark in the current fiscal year while a $5 billion target was fixed for the next year.
Date: May 25, 2022 – Source: Express Tribune
An incentive package is expected to be announced by the federal government for Pakistan’s information technology (IT) and telecommunication sector in the upcoming budget to give a push to the IT sector and meet remittance target of $15 billion in the next two years.
Date: May 28, 2022 – Source: The News
According to the Pakistan Credit Rating Agency (PCRA), the market size of Pakistan’s telecommunication sector is estimated to increase by Rs51 billion or 8 per cent to Rs695 billion by the end of fiscal year 2022.
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.