Distancing itself from the “Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Bill, 2018”, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led government on Friday approached the Senate Secretariat for its withdrawal.
The Senate of Pakistan had referred the “Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Bill, 2018” to the Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication on September 19, 2018 for consideration and report (Report of the committee to be presented in the house on 19th November, 2018 or before).
However, Leader of the House Senator Shibli Faraz on Friday submitted an application to the Senate Secretariat seeking the withdrawal of the bill.
The draft bill was presented by former IT Minister Anusha Rehman with the objective to control blasphemy contents in the previous cabinet chaired by former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.
After the approval from the previous cabinet, the bill was sent to the Senate. On September 19, 2018 the bill was sent to the concerned standing committee.
PTI leader Shibli Faraz has pleaded that the bill was approved by the previous cabinet. Legally the bill should have been approved by the current cabinet before presenting in the House. He further said that the PTI government has no concern with the bill and formally requested the Senate Secretariat for its withdrawal.
Parliamentarians on Wednesday had opposed the proposed amendment to the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), 2016, by bringing blasphemy and pornography within the ambit of the cybercrime law.
However, they recommended the inclusion of extradition clauses for bringing those involved in online blasphemy i.e. by using internet, social media, phone etc and proceed against them as allowed in the UN Charter.
The Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication met with Rubina Khalid in the chair on Wednesday to consider “the prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Bill, 2018.”
However, even before starting a discussion on the proposed legislation, committee members objected that Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, the mover of the Bill was not present in the meeting.
Senator Abdul Ghafoor Haideri viewed the amendment as a move to weaken the blasphemy law and asked under what pressure the government is going to amend the law. He said that blasphemy law is already there and what was the need to bring it under the cybercrime law.
According to the proposed legislation, whoever falsely accused anyone of blasphemy (provided for in sections 27C or 27D), would suffer the same punishment. This provision had been proposed in view of the increasing incidences of false accusation of blasphemy against anyone with whom one had a score to settle, as recently witnessed in the Mashaal Khan case.
However, Haideri said that it was a move to weaken the blasphemy law and walked out of the committee. He further announced that he would resist the proposed law at any level i.e. Senate, National Assembly and even on roads.
Senator Rehman Malik said that blasphemy law exists in the country but needs to be strengthened. However, he said that it should not be covered under the cybercrime laws. Malik said there is a need to introduce extradition clauses in the cybercrime law only for those who use the internet, social media, mobile phone etc for blasphemy.
He said that Pakistan is a member country of UN and legislation should be made to proceed against the persons involved in blasphemy to the extent UN charter allows.
Justice (Retd) Raza Shah informed the committee that the amendment bill was moved in compulsion of the Islamabad High Court order. The Ministry has moved the bill to fulfill the court order and not on their own wishes.