Cyber Crime Bill, restriction on freedom of speech?

The purpose of this Act, which is to control the increasing “Cyber Crimes in Pakistan” and control the offences related with information systems. It is also known as Cyber Crimes Bill 2016. It provides mechanisms for the investigation, prosecution and trial of electronic crimes. It is Federal law and hence it extends to whole of Pakistan. The act was basically drafted in 2015 but it became controversial after its introduction. There are many clauses in this Act which are considered as restrictions on the freedom of people especially freedom of expression and freedom of speech.

The bill envisages 14-year imprisonment and Rs. 5 million fine for cyber terrorism, seven-year imprisonment each for campaigning against innocent people on the internet, spreading hate material on the basis of ethnicity, religion and sect or taking part in child pornography. According to certain amendments made by the Senate, terrorism, electronic fraud, exaggeration of forgery, crimes, hate speeches, pornographic materials about children, illegal access of data (hacking) as well as interference with data and information system specialized cyber related electronic forgery and electronic fraud etc. will be punishable acts.

According to certain amendments made by the Senate, terrorism, electronic fraud, exaggeration of forgery, crimes, hate speeches, pornographic materials about children, illegal access of data (hacking) as well as interference with data and information system (DOS and DDOS attacks) specialized cyber related electronic forgery and electronic fraud etc will be punishable acts.

Opposition had showed reservations as they thought it was against freedom of speech and human rights. Cyber-crime is implemented on all Pakistanis and also those Pakistanis, who are living outside Pakistan for the time being. It is implemented on anyone trying to hack information about property or personal information, data of others.


MQM’s Abdul Waseem criticized the bill as he said that it is not acceptable to them in current shape. PPP’s Imran Leghari said that youth would not be able to express themselves after this bill.


Study of the bill shows that from spamming, spoofing, cyber stalking to malicious code, offences against modesty and dignity of a person almost 20 offences are included in the proposed law. However, there is no mention of the most serious crime of uploading and sharing blasphemous material on internet and through social media.

Blasphemy, Pornography missing from Cyber Crime Bill?

The Cyber Crime Bill as passed by the National Assembly and later amended by the Senate has two most glaring omissions- it does neither cover the heinous crime of spreading and sharing blasphemous material through internet and social media nor take pornographic stuff as an offence. The PTA is also busy in blocking such sites on daily basis.

Similarly, the Pakistani users of internet and social media are bombarded with pornographic material, which is freely available and easily accessible. However, despite all this, the Cyber Crime Bill does not talk about these two really sensitive areas of concern for the society.

These serious crimes are not included in the list of offences mentioned in the proposed bill, and this is because some political parties were reluctant to mention “blasphemy” and “pornography” in the list of offences.

PECB seeks to impose state hegemony over information

In its present form PECB will criminalize conduct that shouldn’t be criminalized, equip investigation agencies and PTA with overbroad and unguided powers that will be susceptible to abuse, and chill free speech without any corresponding augmentation of the right to privacy or dignity.
Any information. Through any information system. Information is defined as: “text, message, data, voice, sound, database, video, signals, software, computer programmes”. Information system as “an electronic system for creating, generating, sending, receiving, storing, reproducing, displaying, recording or processing any information”.

Mind you, this isn’t just limited to what’s on the Internet anymore. It’s about what flows through your electronic devices — a mobile phone, computer, laptop, iPad. Don’t count out cameras and iPods either — they too are devices, Wi-Fi enabled these days. What you are transmitting through SMS and WhatsApp, or perhaps what sits on your phone as a note or picture in your gallery, and of course what you are emailing or posting on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc, could soon be subject to judgement calls by the PTA.

Leveling these punishments is still subject to the government but from now on it appears there will be a tighter grip on all online activities. People from different walks of life criticized this Act because Government can use it as tools to punish its opponents. Criticism in Social Media also has positive effects because it can highlight many important issues. But this bill bars any sort of criticism on social media. In nutshell Cyber Crimes Act 2016 (Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016) is a controversial piece of legislation.

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