Seriousness towards Cyber Crime Laws in Pakistan
Dr.Nadia Khadam – After the advent of 3G and 4G technology in Pakistan, cyberspace seems to be more sensitive area.
Cybercrime’s rate in Pakistan is also considerably increasing day by day.
To control such crimes, law is the only tool.
Even if the issue got attention somewhere in preceding years that also proved to be an attempt to misuse the law either in favour or against someone.
This has been a dilemma that whenever this issue was focused upon, it was with some hidden motives and not to redress the grievances of the aggrieved.
Initially due to lack of any proper specific legislation on the subject, offences falling under the cybercrime category were dealt under Electronic Transaction Ordinance 2002(ETO 2002).
ETO 2002 had been promulgated after accepting the challenging situation, created by the increased use of internet vis-a- vis electronic commerce.
Section 36 of ETO 2002 stipulates imprisonment up to seven years as a penalty for the violation of privacy whereas Section 37 of the same prescribes imprisonment up to seven years for the damage to information system.
On perusal of preamble of Electronic Transaction Ordinance 2002, it is clear that this law was not enacted with the intention to penalize the offenders.
This is the reason limitations of this law are very much visible.
Due to increase in the use of computer, new cybercrimes emerged but none of these was included in the ordinance, resultantly rendering the legislation less effective.
The situation at present is that most offenders easily escape the punishment since judges are unable to frame charges against them.
After observing the deficiencies in Electronic Transaction Ordinance 2002, a detailed law was introduced in the form of an Ordinance i.
Prevention of Electronic Crimes Ordinance 2007(PECO 2007) with the view to address problems relating to misuse of technology.
Although the ordinance contained some provisions regarding cyber or electronic crimes, yet, it could not attain the status of an Act, and was repealed in 2009.
Since then, the offences are being dealt under ETO 2002.
Fortunately, the importance of cybercrime laws was again felt in 2014 when three bills were introduced in the parliament: two were tabled in Senate and one in National Assembly.
One of these bills was Cyber Security Council Bill, 2014, which was introduced in Senate by Senator Musahid Hussain Syed.
The bill proposed the formation of National Cyber Security Council with the objective to make policies, set guidelines and governance model, conduct research, advise different branches of government, make laws and to analyse the situation in international perspective and more.
The other bill was Protection of Cybercrimes Bill 2014 was introduced by Senator Karim Ahmad Khawaja with the purpose to prevent cyber offences as well to put in a procedure for their investigation, trial, prosecution, punishment and international collaboration in this regard.
The third bill, namely Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill 2014, was introduced by Ms.
Anusha Rehman, Minister of State for Information Technology, in the National Assembly.
The bill had been introduced in 2014 and was approved by the parliament a few days back and now awaiting assent from the President.
The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill gained more attention due to vast coverage of crimes in it.
It penalizes the unauthorized access, copying, transmission, interference with information system and critical infrastructure information system or data.
Moreover, if any of the above mentioned acts done with the intention to create fear in society shall be punished with imprisonment of fourteen years.
Electronic forgery and fraud is penalized which will definitely help curb emerging related crimes in Pakistan.
Identity information should not be obtained or used by anyone without authorization; if so it would be criminal.
Offences against dignity like displaying and transmitting false information with the intention to harm the reputation or privacy of natural person is a declared offence under the bill
But there is an important exception, and that is, if anything broadcast on media or by distribution service licenced under PEMRA Ordinance 2002.
No one would now even think of blackmailing or damaging the reputation of other by displaying immoral pictures otherwise person would face criminal liability.
No individual will do cyber stalking by threatening or creating fear through any kind of contact.
Glorification of an offence or of a person convicted of a crime relating to terrorism is also penalized under the bill.
Selling of unauthorised SIM cards will be an offence if the bill gets approved.
This is comprehensive law which was dire need of the time.
This area continued to be neglected by the parliament, but this time concerned authorities have taken this issue much more seriously, which resulted in passage of the bill after exhaustive debates.
If it is passed, certain issues can be removed and improved through amendments.
This is the beauty of law that it can be changed anytime through amendments as per requirement of times.
The way this bill was presented, perused, shared and discussed with the stakeholders and public at large is significant.
Moreover, the way the criticism over the bill was welcomed is also appreciable and improvements were made in the light of suggestions.
After the passage of any Act, people have two options: whether to criticise for the sake of criticism or to criticize with suggestions to make laws better and more practicable.
The Ministry of Information Technology is to be commended for making it possible and all the stakeholders’ efforts are also to be acknowledged for giving their feedback and for helping to improve this upcoming legislation, which is need of the hour.
Even after the passage of the Bill from Parliament a lot of criticism is on record.
Critics were of the view that this law might pose serious threats to the freedom of information and some provisions of the law needed a clarification since according to them there was a risk of misuse of these provisions.
But, prudently observing those obstacles, if any, could be taken care of by suitable amendments.
Those should be welcomed by the parliament to amend and improve the law.
If the same is not done this time then again Pakistan will be in a position of lawlessness in terms of cybercrimes.
(Author is serving as Senior Assistant Professor at University in Islamabad and she earned P.
hD (Criminal Law) with research focus on Cybercrime laws.