Parliamentarians in the Upper House have sought legislation under Article 19 to ensure that the Cyber Crime Act is not misused under the pretext of national security.
The opposition senators expressed concern over the misuse of the act as a political tool to to rein in social media activity.
Lawmakers wanted to know why the act was not being applied to check the blatant misuse of social media by the banned outfits, which have hundreds of web pages and also spread their messages of hate and terror through Facebook and other media tools.
Taking part in the debate on a motion on the threat to freedom of expression by misuse of the Electronic Crimes Act and the impunity with which crimes were continuously being committed against journalists and media persons, PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar demanded that the FIA report on the arrests made under the Cyber Crime Act be placed in the Parliament as required by the act.
Babar also called for legislation under Article 19 of the Constitution so that freedom of expression is not unduly stifled behind vague references to national security and protecting the honour of armed forces.
“Cases against social media activists have increased after a blanket order issued recently by the Interior Ministry. About 1,000 cases have reportedly been registered in a short span of time. The Parliament must know about the number of cases, charges and the courts where the accused are tried,” he emphasized.
State Minister for Interior Baleeghur Rehman said that the government has no ulterior motive behind the law, as it is purely meant to discourage the elements which are misusing cyberspace.
He said that after the law came into force, the number of complaints is increasing, adding the number of complaints was 1,782 in 2014, 4,361 in 2015, 9,075 in 2016, while it has gone further up in 2017.
Chairman Senate Raza Rabbani said that under the law, the government is bound to present a half yearly report to the Parliament, but not a single report has been presented to the house since the passage of the law.
He directed the Ministry of Interior to present the report in the both the houses of the Parliament within one month.
The Minister said that the reports will be compiled within a week and then they will be presented in both the houses.
Anusha Rehman Khan, State Minister for Information Technology said that Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) is the implementing body, and the Parliament can summon it anytime if it deems it necessary.
According to Anusha, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) is only allowed to manage the contents. She also dispelled the impression that the government wants to shut the internet or social media through the law, saying there is no truth in it.