See What Cyber Crime Law Can Do to You – A Must Read for Every Internet User in Pakistan!

Cyber Crime bill, that has been approved by National Assembly’s standing committee on Information Technology, is now likely to be presented in National Assembly for approval to soon become a law of the land.

Once passed in National Assembly, the cyber crime bill will become a law and would be used against any Pakistani within Pakistani boundaries for prosecution.

Why Such a Hurry in Passing the Bill?

While a framework for cyber crime laws should have been made decades ago, processing it in such a haste raises some questions that should concern every citizen of Pakistan.

Before we dissect the the bill in parts to help you better understand the problems, it is important to note that NA’s standing committee approved the bill within a few hours after the critics raised their voice.

Moreover, standing committee’s representation included only PML(N) members. 14 PML(N) members out of a total of 20 members of the committee were present and approved the bill without objecting anything, while five out of six remaining members from other parties didn’t participate in the meeting.

Yes, we know that government has every way of proving that other members were invited but they couldn’t make it to one of the most important meetings of the year — we know how it works for government offices — but the fact of the matter is that Standing Committee’s approval for Cyber Crime bill doesn’t represent any party other than PML(N), which is more or less like dictatorship.

This hurriedness is alarming.

Also Read: Complete List of Cyber Crimes and Their Publishments

Touching a Phone, or Hitting a Keystroke can Put You Behind the Bars for Six Months!

The bill, as a a whole is decidedly ambiguous and incomplete. Let me explain how.

Let’s have a look at section 3, which says:

Whoever with malicious intent gains unauthorized access to any information system or data shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months or with fine which may extend to one hundred thousand rupees or with both.

The term “Malicious” is very vague. No one bothered to define it and I am not sure what things are malicious and what are not — but what I know is that I can be put behind the bars for six months for just touching a phone by mistake.

Moreover, anyone can call my intents malicious, meaning that I am on the fence already.

Unauthorized access — by mistake for example — without resulting into any harm is punishable as well. That’s just as simple as clicking keystroke of your boss’s computer — who can get you convicted for accessing his/her laptop with malicious intent.

If you are Unlucky, Touching a Phone can Get You Behind the Bars for Three Years Too!

If you were thinking that six months for touching a phone was too much, then you were wrong. Touching a phone can in fact get you three years of imprisonment or a million rupees in fine if you are up against a minister.

So here’s the corresponding section you should look at:

Unauthorized access to critical infrastructure information system or data: Whoever with malicious intent gains unauthorized access to any critical infrastructure information system or data shall be punished with imprisonment upto three years or with fine which may extend to one million rupees or with both.

If you are wondering what this “Critical Infrastructure” is, then here’s how it is defined in the bill:

“critical infrastructure” includes the infrastructures so designated by any Government in Pakistan and such other assets, systems and networks, whether physical or virtual, so vital to the State or its organs including judicature that their incapacitation or destruction may have a debilitating effect on national security, economy, public health,safety or matters related thereto;

So evidently, touching any thing related to government can cause you 5X damage.

If you think I am exaggerating things a little then you might be right actually, but I am just trying to explain the worst case scenarios. And trust me, they are as dangerous as I am telling you.

Note: ProPakistani wants unauthorized accesses to get punished. All we want is more clarity on this “Malicious” thing and a guarantee that how this “Intent” thing won’t be used against a common man.

Hacking a Government Website Can Get you Behind the Bars for 14 Years and/or Rs. 50 Million Fine

So if you used to hack government websites in past, just don’t dare to do that again. Otherwise you can be put in jail for 14 years along with Rs. 50 Millions in Fine. Below are the corresponding sections for you!

Section 5: Unauthorized access to critical infrastructure information system or data:

Whoever with malicious intent gains unauthorized access to any critical infrastructure information system or data shall be punished with imprisonment upto three years or with fine which may extend to one million rupees or with both.

Section 7: Criminal Interference with critical infrastructure information system or data:

Whoever with malicious intent and without authorization interferes with or damages, or causes to be inferred with or damaged, any critical information system or any part thereof, or critical infrastructure data or any part thereof, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to seven years or with fine which may extend to five million rupees or with both.

Section 8: Cyber terrorism:

Whoever commits or threatens to commit any of the offences under sections 5 and 7 where:

(a) the use or threat is designed to coerce, intimidate, overawe or create a sense of fear, panic or insecurity in the Government or the public or a section of the public or community or sect or create a sense of fear or insecurity in society; or

(b) the use or threat is made for the purpose or motive of advancing a religious, ethnic or sectarian cause; shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to fourteen years or with fine which may extend to fifty million rupees or with both.

You Can be Randomly Picked Up by LEAs

Since we are discussing the worst case scenarios, if LEAs think you are are monster then you can be picked up by the officer, any time of the day — with a warrant from court without proving anything.

Read corresponding section yourself:

Section 24: No warrant, arrest, search, seizure or other power not provided for in the Act:

(1) No person whether a police officer, investigation officer or otherwise, other than an investigating officer of the special investigation agency shall investigate an offence under this Act:

Provided that the Federal Government or the Provincial Government may, as the case may be, constitute joint investigation team comprising of the officers of special investigation agency and any other law enforcement agency including Police for investigation of events involving commission of offences under this Act and any other law for the time being in force.

(2) No person other than a prosecutor designated as such by the special investigating agency shall prosecute any offence under this Act.

LEAs Can Come and Confiscate Your Laptop/Mobile or anything They Want 

Yes, you read it right. Below is corresponding section:

Section 25: Expedited Preservation of data.

(1) If an investigating officer is satisfied that

(a) data stored in any information system or by means of an information system, is reasonably required for the purposes of a criminal investigation; and

(b) there is a risk or vulnerability that the data may be modified, lost, destroyed or rendered inaccessible, the investigating officer may, by written notice given to a person in control of the information system, require the person to ensure that the data specified in the notice be preserved and the integrity thereof is maintained for a period not exceeding ninety days as specified in the notice.

(2) The period provided in sub-section (1) for preservation of data may be extended by the Magistrate if so deemed necessary upon receipt of an application from the investigating officer in this behalf.

Your Website Can Get Blocked, if Someone Thinks its immoral!

As you might know, ProPakistani has favored blocked blasphemous and anti-state content. But with this law, any website that PTA might not like can get blocked.

Here are reason that PTA can give to block a website if its content is:

  • Against Islam or its integrity,
  • Against security or defence of Pakistan
  • Against friendly relations with foreign states
  • Against a public order
  • If content is indecent or immoral
  • Or if it incites an offence

Theoretically speaking, PTA will be able to block any content on internet — without asking anyone. And no one would be able to challenge PTA in the courts as they will have a law to defend them.

Below is corresponding section from the bill:

Section 31: Power to issue directions for removal or blocking of access of any intelligence through any information system:

(1) The Authority or any officer authorised by it in this behalf may direct anyservice provider, to remove any intelligence or block access to such intelligence, if it considers it necessary in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, commission of or incitement to an offence.

(2) The Federal Government may prescribe rules for adoption of standards and procedure by the Authority to monitor and block access and entertain complaints under this section.

(3) Until such procedure and standards are prescribed, the Authority shall monitor and block intelligence in accordance with the directions issued by the Federal Government.

Spamming Can Cause You a Fine of Rs. 1 Million

There are many spammers in out country. Individuals and even the multi national companies (Like Daraz, Nokia, Qatar Airways, HP Pakistan etc.) send (or used to send) spam emails. If you are one such person then you can fined up to Rs. 1 million.

So this is a hard time coming up, stop spamming right away.

While I think that spamming should be penalized, Bolo Bhi believes that spamming shouldn’t be included in the bill as an offence. Farieha Aziz, director Bolo Bhi, told me that the proportionality of damage done through spamming isn’t in proportion to the fine and there are other ways of blocking spam such as tightening privacy laws so that emails aren’t shared with the spammers.

Publishing a Meme on Facebook can Fine you With Rs. 1 Million

Arsalan (from Comics by Arsalan) and our other similar friends this is for you: Close your pages and start doing something else, but not comics. Because in Pakistan this law, when passed, will get you behind the bars or a fine of up to Rs. 1 million for creating and publishing memes.

Check below section for your satisfaction:

Section 18: Offences against dignity of natural person

(1) Whoever dishonestly and publicly exhibits or displays or transmits any false electronic communication, which is likely to harm or intimidate the reputation or privacy of a natural person shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years or with fine up to one million rupees or with both.

Provided, nothing under this sub-section(1) shall apply to anything aired by a broadcast media or distribution service licensed under PEMRA Ordinance 2002 (XIII of 2002)

(2) Any aggrieved person or his guardian, where such person is a minor may apply to the Court for passing of such orders for removal, destruction or blocking access to such material referred to in subsection

(1) and the Court on receipt of such application may pass such orders as deemed proper for securing, destroying, blocking access or preventing transmission of such material.

So naturally, all memes, cartoon or caricatures are going to get forbidden in the land of the pure.

Publishing a Picture of Nawaz Sharif can Fine you with up to Rs. 1 Million

No more trolling on the internet again. Yes, publishing the pictures of anyone without their consent or knowledge can get you behind the bars for two good years and/or with a fine of up to Rs. 1 Million

Below is the corresponding section in the bill:

Cyber stalking

(1) Whoever with the intent to coerce or intimidate or harass any person uses information system, information system network, the Internet, website, electronic mail or any other similar means of communication to:

  • communicate obscene, vulgar, contemptuous, or indecent intelligence; or
  • make any suggestion or proposal of an obscene nature; or
  • threaten any illegal or immoral act; or
  • take or distribute picture or photograph of any person without his consent or knowledge; or
  • display or distribute information in a manner that substantially increases the risk of harm or
  • violence to any person, commits the offence of cyber stalking.

(2) Whoever commits the offence specified in sub-section (1) shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with fine up to one million rupees, or with both:

Provided that if the victim of the cyber stalking under sub-section (1) is a minor the punishment may extend to five years or with fine upto ten million rupees, or with both.

(3) Any person may apply to the Court for issuance of a restraining order against an accused of cyber stalking and the Court upon receipt of such application may pass such order as deemed fit in the circumstances of the case including an order for removal or destruction of, or blocking access to, such material.

The Core Focus is to Curb Digital Media (While Exempting Print and Electronic Media)

Interestingly, section 18 mentioned above (that imposes a fine of Rs. 1 Million for publishing memes) isn’t applicable for Electronic or Print media. Here’s the clause that says so:

Provided, nothing under this sub-section(1) shall apply to anything aired by a broadcast media or distribution service licensed under PEMRA Ordinance 2002 (XIII of 2002)

So if you are print media or an electronic media then publishing memes is okay. In such situation, what kind of law is this? Where same thing is lawful for one and unlawful for another?

Proportionality of Crime and Punishments are Senseless

Industry stake holders say that the proportionality of crimes defined and the corresponding punishments are simply mindless. For example if a kid hacks a website then he can be sent into jail for 14 years — which is way beyond common sense.

Industry is calling for more rational approach towards punishments, especially in Pakistan where corruption and lawlessness is at its peak. There must be some safeguards in place to make sure that politicians aren’t given a free hand to use the law against innocent citizens.

If passed in its current form (which is expected to be much worse than the version we produced above), it will impact everyone (individuals, businesses, media etc.) in a big way. This needs urgent attention as bill can be passed in a speedy manner through the National Assembly.

How to Stop this Bill

Raise your voice. That’s the only thing that can make a difference. Flood your Facebook and Twitter feeds. Make yourself heard by the law-makers as they are the ones who are confining your freedom.

Do this today, as tomorrow it may get too late!

Go ahead and share this page on your Facebook walls! Become a part in stopping this bill!

Tech reporter with over 10 years of experience, founder of ProPakistani.PK