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12. Section 43 on Page 12 states:
43. Prevention of electronic crimes – (1) The Federal Government or the Authority, as the case may be, may issue guidelines to be followed by the owners of the designated information systems or service providers in the interests of preventing any offence under this Act.
(2) Any owner of the information system or service provider who violates the guidelines issued by the Federal Government under sub-section (1) shall be guilty of an offence punishable, if committed for first time, with fine up-to ten million rupees and upon any subsequent conviction shall be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to six months or with fine or with both.
The Act define offences vaguely and while its being constantly pleaded by the law-makers, that Constitution of Pakistan, case-law, fair trial act and/or criminal code can be referred to for clear definitions, the fact of the matter remains, this Act is wide-open for interpretation. The Act gives absolute power to the Federal Government and PTA to direct service providers as they please, without having to actually justify the cause or reason for their actions. It present a huge concerns for citizens’ right to uninterrupted access.
Using kill-switch is a standard practice in Pakistan (kill-switch refers to complete or partial disclosure of communication services) and is commonly used in the name of ‘prevention of crimes’. This Act if taken in the context, not only justifies the use of kill-switch but also constitutionally legalize it.
The Act equally applies to telecom operators and internet service providers and so if the Federal Government and/or the PTA ‘feels’ blocking GSM, mobile data, WhatsApp, FB messenger, Viber, Tango, Skype and/or pretty much any other web/mobile/phone related service is ‘necessary’ to prevent cyber crimes, under this Act, they will be legally empowered to do so.
The Act also allows for the violators (service providers, telcos etc) to be criminally charged.