Concerns Force NA Panel to Defer Cybercrime Bill

An IT parliamentary panel has withheld its decision to approve the Cybercrime bill. In a meeting on Friday, the panel decided to delay its decision on the Electronic Crimes bill 2015 after some government advisors displayed concerns over the final draft of the bill.

It seems our concerns have been heard and they forced the bill approval to be delayed until some improvements are made. Captain(R) Muhammad Safdar, the Chairman of National Assembly’s Standing Committee for Information Technology, forwarded the concerns and criticism presented by lawmakers and the general public over the new bill at the meeting.

Prime Minister’s Special Assistant Khawaja Zaheer Ahmed opposed Captain Safdar’s proposal in a restricted public hearing. Captain Safdar said that after hearing the civil society’s reservations he has decided that the bill will not be put up for approval. Some of the advisors exhibited stern resistance to his decision but he did not change his decision.

He said:

I cannot approve this bill in its current form as I have not noticed lacunas earlier and after hearing [those] I’m convinced that there is a need for improvement in the bill.

He suggested that civil society members can discuss the bill in-detail with the IT Ministry officials and propose changes. Captain Safdar requested Lawyer Babar Sattar to help in improving the current draft.

He added:

We have already spent three months on this bill and we want to refer it to the speaker. But if he resends it for further deliberation then we again deliberate on this.

Safdar did not extend the deadline despite his decision to defer the bill. He refused the idea of having an open meeting special with Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ). Afzal Butt PFUJ President implied that journalists would stage a protest if the government chooses to ignore their concerns over the controversial bill.

Anusha Rehman, Minister of IT and Telecommunications, stated that the IT Ministry held several meetings with the stakeholders to discuss the achieve a consensus draft bill which was sent to the Prime Minister in February 2014 (Though their definition of stakeholders seems different since the population is the major stakeholder).

She claimed that the draft had been available on the ministry’s website and received no criticism at the time. She said that not all segments of society were part of the forum that decided to defer the bill and that several people who were initially part of the bill’s formation were not in this meeting.

Let’s hope that the government takes some time to change and improve the bill though the deadline would need to be renegotiated if the bill is to undergo in detailed discussions. The current timeframe might be too less for the aforementioned task.

Source: Express Tribune

He is the Editor at ProPakistani. Reach him at [email protected]