The Senators of People’s Party Pakistan, leading opposition party in the National Assembly with majority in Senate, denounce the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill 2016, terming it a “bad bill”. Senator Rubina Khalid of PPP said the party stance is to “re-write the bill, since there is no way of reforming the current draft”. Senator Babar Awan said “the Bill is specially designed to protect the leadership of PML-N so they cannot be criticised on social media platforms”.
Media Matters for Democracy’s team interviewed Rubina Khalid, Taj Haider and Babar Awan, and they had this to say:
Senator Rubina Khalid:
“… in the Senate we have referred it (the Bill) to the Standing Committee on IT and we’ll see it there, but generally, we feel – I don’t want to be biased – but it needs to be re-drafted. Suggesting recommendations will not work. Overall its a bad Bill. We’ve opened it up for public petitions and people who have reservations on it will come forward, and will see it from that prespective as well, but in my opinion, it has to be re-written”
” … the party stance is that it (the Bill) has to be re-written and its a bad law. Every clause in that draft needs to be redrafted”
Senator Babar Awan:
” … cyber crimes bill is alright as far as the title is concerned, but there are three (major) concerns in its contents; the first is that its drafted by the IT minister to suit the needs to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, to ensure that people cannot blow whistles (to uncover corruption) and/or caricaturize them (PML-N) online. Second is that the definition of cyber crimes is extremely vague. Its similar to the definition of 1997 terrorism act, where the act of (peaceful) assembly was declared terrorism. They (PML-N) have recently expressed their views clearly, and have declared those who agitate and/or demonstrate sit-ins terrorists. So this law (PECB) is a tailored law to keep certain individuals from expression. Third, it contradicts the fundamental laws in the Constitution of Pakistan, one being the Right to Information, which was made a part of Constitution when I was the Law Minister. Under PECB even the most common of things (could be) classified as ‘confidential’. Right to Fair Trial also gets seriously affected. Similarly (legitimate) freedom of expression (online) will end in Pakistan. Internet is one medium that government in Pakistan cannot ‘manage’, and/or commercially influence, they are planning to censor it. I will reject this Bill straight away in the Upper House and I will convince others to follow me.”
Senator Taj Haider:
” … First the Government needs to make clear the crimes they intend to target through this Bill, including the financial ones. Instead of focusing on such crimes, the Bill focuses more on infringing the fundamental rights of citizens of Pakistan, rights such as privacy. The laws should be protective of citizen’s rights and not the vice versa”.