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Pakistan passes controversial cyber-crime law

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Pakistan passes controversial cyber-crime law

The bill will formally become a law after the signatures of President Mamnoon Hussain.

PTI's Shah Mahmood Qureshi even made one last attempt to stop its passage, urging the minister of information technology not to rush the legislation, instead engage the opposition to secure unanimous approval.

Major opposition parties including Pakistan People party (PPP), Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) condemned certain sections of the bill, which, according to them could curb the freedom of expression, the Express Tribune reported.

The Senate on July 29, 2016, passed this bill unanimously after detailed deliberations and incorporating several amendments proposed by the opposition.

Anusha Rehman said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced to make the bill with various improvements a part of the National Action Plan and she was assigned the task to draft it.

But, critics say it would curb free speech and give the government the power to conduct mass surveillance and criminalise satire.

However, the government used its superior numbers in the house to pass the bill through a voice vote.

MQM lawmaker Ali Raza Abidi also deplored certain sections of the bill, which, he said, are totally unacceptable.

Farieha Aziz, director of the Bolo Bhi digital rights group, said a section meant to tackle cyber-stalking was drafted in sweeping language that would allow public officials criticised on social media to claim they were being harassed.

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The opposition members also objected that minors of age above 10 are also being covered as criminals under the legislation.

She further said that parliament had removed certain reservation of different segments of the society on this law after taking them on board and through public hearings.

Farieha Aziz, director of the Bolo Bhi digital rights group, told AFP news agency a section meant to tackle cyber-stalking was drafted in sweeping language that would allow public officials criticised on social media to claim they were being harassed.

It was of particular concern, she said, that the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority would be allowed to ban speech considered "against the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan".

Defending the bill, IT Minister Anusha Rahman told AFP: "We have built in safeguards against misuse".

The government has been arguing that the legislation is aimed at preventing online harassment, cyber-stalking and terrorist activities. Spoofing, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term of up to three years or with Rs500,000 in fine.

The promotion of hate speech or sectarian hatred content will attract up to seven years imprisonment.

As per an article of the bill, "If you try to get into a relation with someone online through internet website, email, SMS, phone or any communication tool despite there is disinterest from the other party then you can be jailed for three years or imposed a fine which may extend to Rs one million or with both".

The law includes a total of 21 offences related to misuse of Internet.

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