PTA Wants Telcos to Upgrade Their Infrastructure to Ensure Security

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has been trying to raise $2.5 million from cellular companies to buy the equipment needed for cyber protection.

PTA Chairman Mohammad Naveed informed the Senate Standing Committee on Interior of this development recently, which met with Rehman Malik in the chair.

The Committee was briefed by Chairman PTA about the progress made so far, including measures taken to safeguard the Cyber Borders Security Control System in the greater national interest. He said that they have been trying to raise $2.5 million from cellular companies to buy the equipment needed for cyber protection. PTA Chairman said that they have already arranged $2.3 million.

Malik appreciated PTA and said that he had advised the government both here and in the Senate House to buy equipment worth $25 million for Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to block blasphemous, anti-Pakistan and pornographic content. He said he is pleased to know that PTA has collected an amount of 2.3 million dollars.

Exit Control List

The parliamentary panel proposed major amendments in the Exit Control List (ECL) by recommending that nobody should be placed on the ECL during an inquiry as well as investigation.

Ministry of Interior briefed the committee on the ECL Policy and discussed how to identify the lacunas in the current policy.

The committee recommended major amendments in the current ECL Policy by recommending that the word “Competent Authority” should be substituted with the word “Federal Secretary, Ministry of Interior”. They also recommended that nobody should be placed on the ECL during an inquiry and no one should be included in ECL during an investigation unless ordered by the Trial Court and Supreme Court of Pakistan.

Malik said that ECL is being used as a tool of punishment, bringing a bad name to people who are placed on ECL and being considered as a hardcore criminal in society.

Senator Muhammad Ateeq Shaikh said that people are facing issues when their names are being put on ECL and they are not informed.

In most cases when people reach the airport, they are stopped there and informed that their names are on ECL, creating embarrassment and panic for them, especially when they are going for some business and other meetings outside the country, Shaikh added.

Malik said that the Constitution of Pakistan ensures the fundamental human rights and freedom of movement of every citizen and that restricting anyone’s movement who hasn’t committed a serious crime is a violation of that. He said that one must not be placed on ECL merely for the reason that an inquiry is initiated against him until one is proven either guilty, or that the court has ordered to place one’s name on ECL, or found involved in espionage, terrorism or anti-state activities. He said that the competent authority is the Federal government and Supreme Court of Pakistan has given its verdict that the Federal Govt means “the whole Cabinet”.

He said that the way names of accused persons are placed on ECL is not appropriate and the Committee will take the opinion of all the stakeholders regarding it. He said that the Committee’s main concern is to make the ECL Policy very clear as to how they should put and remove the names from ECL so we can facilitate the public through Parliament.

He said that influential people used to get their names out of ECL and the poor have fallen victim to this discriminatory policy, adding that lawmakers have to amend the present policy of ECL.

He asked that all those names which have been included in the ECL for the last 3 years with no decision from any Court may be removed from the ECL with immediate effect.

He said there is no need to revisit the rules, criteria, procedure and SOPs for placing anyone’s name on ECL or blacklist where the concerned person should be informed within seven days without affecting his basic human rights to get relief from the Court.

Malik questioned the Ministry of Interior about the law and procedure under which any investigative agency asks for putting anyone’s name on ECL. Secretary Interior said that referred cases from the agencies are reviewed by the home committee and then referred to the federal cabinet for final action. The matter was referred to Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice.