The government on Tuesday formed a committee to review social media regulations introduced last year, the office of the Attorney-General for Pakistan said in a statement.
The development comes after the federal government in January informed the Islamabad High Court that it would review the regulations in an ongoing case challenging their formation.
The AGP’s office said Federal Minister for Human Rights, Shireen Mazari, would be the committee’s chairperson, with MNA Barrister Maleeka Bokhari, Senator Barrister Ali Zafar, Secretary IT, and Chairman of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) as its members.
The statement further said the committee would furnish its recommendations to Prime Minister, Imran Khan, within a month after consultations with the petitioner, Usama Khawar, who filed the case in the IHC, and relevant stakeholders.
The federal government’s “Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight, and Safeguards) Rules, 2020” under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 (PECA) invited strong criticism from internet service providers, digital rights activists, and tech giants alike when it was introduced.
Originally named the “Citizens’ Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules, 2020”, the rules were devised following a September 2019 IHC verdict berating the PTA for failing to frame relevant laws under Section 37 of the PECA law.
Owing to criticism from digital and human rights activists, civil society, journalists, and strong opposition from the Asia Internet Coalition (AIC), the federal government had initially formed a consultative committee to take all stakeholders on board.
On November 2, 2020, the IHC had ordered PTA to issue the new rules within 90 days. The government notified the rules on November 18, with stakeholders saying they were completely bypassed as rules were being finalized by the authorities.