Rights groups hope Ayaz Sadiq will end controversy | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Rights groups hope Ayaz Sadiq will end controversy

Pakistan Press Foundation

ISLAMABAD: Rights groups have pinned all their hopes on former parliamentary speaker Ayaz Sadiq for withdrawal of the controversial draft of the cybercrime bill.

The bill was approved by National Assembly Standing Committee on Information Technology & Telecommunication soon after an election tribunal unseated Sadiq, resulting in his ouster as the speaker.

The then speaker was in favour of a public hearing. He had not presented the bill for voting in the lower house of parliament. He preferred to send it back to the committee for a public hearing. The committee, however, held only restricted hearings.

Nighat Dad, director of Digital Rights Foundation (DRF), said the people had brought Sadiq back to the lower house. “As the speaker, the first thing he should do is send the cybercrime bill back to the IT committee.”

Several rights groups – advocating protection of fundamental rights, civil liberties, digital rights, privacy protection, freedom of expression and right to information – have expressed concern over the draft of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill.

A final draft of the bill was approved by the standing committee, headed by Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar, without adequate and effective representation of the public.

A spokesperson for the DRF said the bill was a badly drafted piece of legislation based on unrealistic expectations, adding that in its current form it imposed draconian penalties that were out of scale with the offences it ostensibly addresses, and does not protect the rights of the citizens using the internet.

“The government must introduce a stringent personal data protection law that defends the rights of internet users in the country against harassment and abuse of surveillance powers.”

Qamar Naseem, another rights activist, said: “The government must redraft the cybercrime bill with full consideration of the globally accepted human rights framework, with the purpose of ensuring protection of fundamental rights, instead of compromising them through potential abuse inherent in the current draft.”

A spokesperson for the Institute for Research, Advocacy & Development said the current bill criminalises disclosure of information in public interest (whistle-blowing). “It is no less than a modern version of the draconian Official Secrets Act 1923.

Express Tribune