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From POPA To Cyber Crime Bill; Pakistan’s March Towards A Police State’

When Protection of Pakistan Act (POPA) was implemented a few years back, I was quite concerned that it may prove to be one more step towards converting Pakistan into a police state. With the implementation cyber crime bill, my concern is a reality now.

Am I against the laws to control cyber crime? Of course not. Throughout the world, countries are trying different techniques to counter the ever increasing cyber crime by implementing new laws and devising new penal codes. However, what makes Cyber Crime Bill in Pakistan atrocious is the intent behind the bill and features of the transcript. There have been instances where social media actually derived the electronic and print media regarding corruption cases related to ruling elite in this country.

Crimes that can’t be highlighted in electronic media due to govt. control or self censorship were presented to the public through social media. For example, video of people getting angry at PIA administration when PIA delayed the flight because of Mr. Rehman Malik got viral on social media. ‘Fix-it’ campaign by Mr. Alamgir also caught public eye thanks to social media. It seems that gimmicks like banning different movies including Maalik, Haider, etc. are not proving enough to control the minds of people and state has decided to police what masses are sharing over internet.

Like POPA, Cyber Crime Bill nullifies the ‘innocent unless proven guilty’ and replaces it with ‘guilty until proven innocent’. Features of the bill are so clumsy and open to interpretation that it can be easily used to turn any intriguing voice to mute. For example, it applies imprisonment up to 3 years and a fine of 0.5 million PKR for creating website for any negative purpose.

Now, who will define what ‘negative purpose’ is? If I create a website to develop awareness in the masses about corruption of ruling elite, civil and military alike, will it be considered a ‘negative purpose’? If I start challenging Taboos in the society, is it ‘negative purpose’ too? With the given state of affairs of our judiciary, your finances will be drained and your life will be ruined if you even prove in the court that you didn’t have a ‘negative purpose’ connected to your website. How much time it will take to prove you innocent? that’s another story.

You make call me pessimistic as I am not seeing the bright side of the picture. Yes, there are cyber crimes that are being committed and should be stopped. However, there percentage in over all crimes in this country is very small. For those crimes where law is already in place, a brief look at the performance of LEAs and judiciary is enough to clarify how serious they are when it comes to protection and safety of citizens.

Recent rise in kidnapping incidents of children in Lahore has frightened the parents whereas IGP says that kidnapping of children is not a serious issue .With this reality check, I am 100% sure that this Cyber Crime Bill is nothing but an attempt to control the flow of information on social media and to dictate masses to behave in a particular manner.

However, I firmly believe that states which deploy such tricks are actually fooling themselves. These steps will increase the frustration among masses and they will reach their boiling point more rapidly. Turning Pakistan into a police state will definitely give more control to ruling elite but the result will be more horrific; current state of Middle East is an excellent example of that. Are our leaders pushing this country to same route?


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