The National Assembly Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication opposed the ban on online game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), observing that shutting down everything is not the solution.
This was revealed by senior officials of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) while briefing the National Assembly Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication which met under the Chairmanship of Ali Khan Jadoon. The issues regarding regulating social media platforms and countering the cybersecurity issues in the country came under discussion.
Parliamentarians from the government as well as opposition parties observed that blocking everything is not the solution to problems.
“It would be better to regulate social media forums instead of closing them down”, said Kanwal Shauzab.
Young people have a lot of reservations about the ban on PUBG. By shutting down YouTube, PUBG we go into isolation. Banning opportunities that are a source of money and foreign exchange shouldn’t be considered.
“You can not shut down a platform,” said Zain Qureshi, adding that the case of suicide is yet to be decided as the children committed suicide due to PUBG or other underlying causes.
“PTA made the decision keeping in view the safety of the lives of the people,” said Nisar Ahmed Director PTA, adding that if the standing committee recommends, they would lift the ban.
“Controlling children is the responsibility of parents,” said Qureshi, adding that it is not possible to shut down everything in the world.
The government has temporarily suspended PUBG and sought details from the platform to bring it in the regulatory framework, PTA official added.
PTA officials said that two children committed suicide after not being allowed to play PUBG. Committee members objected saying that the game is still being run by installing proxies, DG Web PTA said that around 14000 proxies have been closed but more are being used. PUBG will remain banned until the inquiry report on the children’s suicide is received, he added.
He further said that the government has asked PUBG for details. “We are not closing it completely. PUBG should be brought into the regulatory framework,” Member PTA added.
They further said that the court did not order to unban the game. The authority has issued a detailed decision and asked the game company for details. Further negotiations are underway with PUBG for registration in Pakistan and a final order will be issued soon, PTA officials added.
“There is a solution to all problems in social media rules,” said Secretary IT Shoaib Siddiqui, adding that under the rules, all these platforms can be negotiated with. He further said that social media laws were criticized for no reason.
It is very important to regulate social media. The question is, will we be able to enforce these rules? PTA officials said that regulating social media may help.
Siddiqui said that a committee was formed on the rules and it gave its recommendations in two months. The Prime Minister had given 10 weeks till September to prepare the rules, said Siddiqui, adding that members of the committee can also give their suggestions in these rules.
The rules have been updated and sent back to the advisory committee for approval, said PTA officials, adding that the rules are expected to be ready by mid-August.
Once there is a mutual treaty, PTA can regulate them, said the officials, adding that currently the content can be removed under Article 37A. “Content that comes from Pakistan is possible, but content from abroad is not possible without a treaty,” officials added.
Secretary IT said that it is necessary to improve the performance of FIA. FIA needs human resources and equipment.
Foreign Office officials briefing the committee on Budapest Treaty and MLA said that Budapest Convention is a European convention that suits their circumstances.
He further said that there is no data protection law in Pakistan.
With the Budapest Convention, we will have to share our data with other countries. With these agreements, we will have to share most of our data with companies abroad. We will not benefit from Budapest conventions and MLAs. An MLA law is going to be in place in Pakistan which is important.
“There is an issue at the UN level on Budapest and we want to give our input about it,” said the Director adding that there is a need to create a cybercrime center.
The committee members unanimously agreed to have a consultation regarding the establishment of a central level body to oversee the cooperation of different government institutions to counter cybercrime.
The committee members suggested the capacity building of FIA to deal with increasing cybercrime in the country. The committee unanimously agreed that the underserved areas be given priority by telecom providers.
Secretary IT&T informed that the Telecom industry had taken a lot of initiatives especially during COVID-19 regarding online business, provision of online services across the country especially online classes, spreading awareness regarding COVID-19, maintaining connectivity across the country. He informed the house that export revenue related to IT had increased exponentially and Pakistan was ranked the 3rd most popular region for freelancing. Secretary IT briefed the house to upgrade the underserved areas through Universal Service Fund.
The meeting was attended by MNAs, Sahibzada Sibghatullah, Makhdoom Zain Hussain Qureshi, Muhammad Aslam Khan, Kanwal Shauzab, Nusrat Wahid, Romina Khurshid Alam, Shamim Ara Panhwar, Mahesh Kumar Malani, Syed Mehmood Shah and other officers of concerned departments.