Youtube team to visit this month: National Assembly body approves Telecommunication (Re-organisation) Bill
In a bid to eradicate grey trafficking, the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Information Technology on Wednesday approved ‘The Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-organisation) Bill of 2012’, which would be presented before the lower house of parliament in the next session.
The committee, which met under Chaudhry Barjees Tahir, expressed irritation over the alleged silence by officials concerned, saying that they had failed to respond to questions raised by the committee members regarding the ‘Prevention of Electronic Crime Bill 2010’.
Committee members also appeared irked over the absence of Secretary Ministry of Information Technology Zafar Qadir and other top officials in the meeting. These officials had been called to present the official version regarding agenda items, especially the ‘Prevention Of Electronic Crimes Bill, 2010’. Chaudhry Barjees Tahir said that official should either withdraw this item or brief the legislative body about it.
Accusing the ministry of inaction, he said that it showed that the ministry were not co-ordinating with the NA Secretariat. The committee was informed by Ministries of IT and Law that the ordinance had been referred to the Select Committee and suggested the committee to withdraw the Bill. The committee unanimously recommended that the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Ordinance, 2009 “may be stand withdrawn”.
During the meeting, Anusha Rehman presented the report of the Sub-committee on ‘The Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-Organisation) (Amendment) Bill 2010’ moved by Humayun Saifullah Khan. The bill has already been approved by the Standing Committee on Information Technology which mainly focused on curbing grey trafficking. It was decided that this bill would be presented in the next session of the National Assembly for approval.
Anusha Rehman said that a new clause had been added into the bill to give representation to provinces, but the law division said that being a regulatory authority, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) was not authorised to do the same, adding that it could be added after the approval of Council of Common Interest (CCI). Humayun Saifullah said that a mechanism should be devised to take input from Fata and Gilgit-Baltistan.
The committee raised the issue of payments to consultants hired for the 3G auction and said that these consultants had done nothing, but the government had to pay millions of rupees. However, PTA’s member Finance apprised the committee that PTA had not paid any money to these consultants, assuring that PTA would not pay them anything. The Committee recommended that Farooq Ahmed Khan, the then chairman, had done this in his personal capacity; therefore this amount should be deducted from his account.
The panel expressed concern about the blocking of Youtube and asked about its current status. PTA officials informed the committee that 748 links of a sacrilegious movie clip had been blocked, besides blocking access to 4,906 pornographic websites. They said that PTA had also blocked 584 anti-state websites. PTA, officials said, was signing agreements with other countries to stop public access to objectionable materials.
Ministries of Law and Information Technology said complete blocking of sacrilegious content on the video sharing website was not possible. They also said the Youtube was not co-operating with the government of Pakistan. PTA said Youtube officials were expected to visit Pakistan by the end of this month.
Humayun Saifullah said that PTA should be given full authority to block all websites containing pornographic and anti-state material. The committee recommended the Ministry of Information Technology to sit together with the PTA to hammer out a strategy to resolve the issue.