The Ministry of Information and Technology has rejected a much awaited cyber security bill from the National Cyber Security Council. Instead, the ministry has forwarded a summary, which is a separate piece of legislation, to the prime minister for approval. The decision was made after the Ministry of IT consulted with all stakeholders, which include the Inter Services Agency (ISI).
In response to the parliamentary panel, the ministry provided a written response that took issue with a number of points in the bill. The ministry said, “It may not adequately address the issue of cyber security and falls short of addressing the key problems linked with cyber security – personal data protection and un-authorised interceptions. The bill does not even provide guidance to the proposed council in light of which the council may devise policy to ensure that the fundamental rights of citizens of Pakistan are protected.”.
The response also pointed towards the failure of the proposed cyber security bill to address reporting of security related incidents. It stated, “The bill also does not require the operators of critical information systems in government, financial, e-commerce, social networks, etc, sectors to report major security incidents on their core services. [It] also falls short of imposing a positive obligation on the operators in the said sectors to adopt risk management practices.”
The rejection has not gone over well the the Senate Committee, which is tasked with oversight over ministry affairs. Senator Zahid Khan, who is a member of the committee, said, “You cannot reject the bill in an outright manner and if there were some issues with its clauses, the ministry needed to share its input to improve the same”. In a question directly addressed to the minister, he asked, “How you can set aside the proposed bill with one stroke of your pen for the sake of a separate piece of legislation?”
In response, the ministry stated that cyber crimes have already been dealt with in the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill. State Minister Anusha Rehman said that a summary had already been moved for the prime minister earlier in February this year. After approval by the federal cabinet, it would be presented to the parliament.
In other news, the ministry confirmed the suspension of policy directives on establishment of cross border terrestrial links. The statement said, “Ministry of IT is at an advanced stage in terms of reviewing telecom sector policies and the matter of cross border links/connectivity has been duly addressed therein after getting recommendations of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).”