Pakistan’s Parliament today adopted a controversial “draconian” legislation to deal with cyber crimes in the country amid criticism by opposition parties and groups working for protection of fundamental rights.
The National Assembly, or lower house, passed ‘The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act’ without any amendment to the draft passed by Senate last month.
Earlier, the Senate made 50 amendments which was passed by the National Assembly in April.
After both houses passed the same version, the bill would be signed by President Mamnoon Hussain to become a law and will be implemented in the country.
The law includes a total of 21 offences related to misuse of Internet. There are over a dozen crimes for which the new law prescribes jail terms. They include use of cyberspace for terrorism, hate speech, pornography, cheating for fraud and tampering information etc.
The law suggests 14 years jail for those using internet for committing terrorism and seven years for promoting violence through hate speech.
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 PPP’s Parliamentary Leader Naveed Qamar said it was a “draconian” law, which violates the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution.
“It is certain that the draft will not stand up to scrutiny of the court of law,” he added.
MQM lawmaker Ali Raza Abidi also deplored certain sections of the bill, which, he said, are totally unacceptable. He also objected to eight of 51 amendments to the bill passed by the Senate. “Youth will be the prime victim of the new law as it is not necessary that the public will have the knowhow about ethics and laws of social media,” he said.
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s lawmaker Ali Muhammad Khan feared that even if not by the current government, the law might be used against opponents by the future rulers.
“Our youth is getting politicised and it is for the good of country but passage of this bill will discourage them to take part in political activities or debate (on cyberspace),” he said.