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AN OPEN LETTER TO SENATE OF PAKISTAN

REGARDING PAKISTAN PROTECTION ORDINANCE


2014 PAKISTANS NEW LAW: NO FREE SPEECH
AND YOURE A TERRORIST UNLESS YOU CAN
PROVE OTHERWISE

Respected Senators,
The recent uproar over the Pakistan Protection Ordinance 2014 has created quite a stir
in the countrys digital media platforms, and rightly so. The Government of Pakistan has
recently passed, what appears to be, the most draconian and regressive anti-terror law
in the National Assembly. The Pakistan Protection Ordinance 2014 has already been
signed by the President and will soon be presented and most likely approved by the
Senate on April 20, 2014.
The proposed law clearly inhibits fundamental rights to freedom of speech, privacy and
peaceful assembly on the Internet. In its current form, the law could be used to
suppress peaceful political opposition and criticism of government policy online, on
social media for instance. In its schedule of offences, the law also lists crimes against
computers including cyber crimes, internet offenses and other offenses related to
information technology etc. Also, instances where a person who commits any crime
mentioned in the scheduled offenses becomes a cognizable and non bailable offense.
Any person accused within the sphere of scheduled offences will be liable to face a
charge on grounds of reasonable evidence against him/her, and will be assumed to be
engaged in waging a war or insurrection against Pakistan, unless he/she establishes
his/her non-involvement in the offence, which reverses the burden of proof and
undermines the right to due process and fair trial. The scheduled offence shall be
punishable with imprisonment, which may extend to 10 years, with fine and confiscation
of property.
The provision regarding internet crimes is so vague that it can be abused against
journalists, politicians, minorities, students, activists, political dissidents and groups who

are using the internet for activities which would not in any way be counted and
ascertained as terrorism. From a due process perspective, there doesnt seem to be a
very strong case for introducing cyber crimes in the PPO 2014, when a separate
Electronic Cyber Crime bill is already being drafted. So, what is the true intent of
introducing an additional or supplementary provisions with regard to Internet Crimes?
The state of open access to internet in our country is dismal. In the 2013 Freedom on
the Net report, Pakistans Internet freedom status in 2012-13 was Not Free. The
introduction to the report states: Successive military and civilian governments have
adopted various measures to control the internet in Pakistan, which they frame as
necessary for combating terrorism. In Freedom of Press, Pakistan ranks 159 among
179 countries. In the planned Ordinance, provision related to warrant less raids is in
violation of Article 14 of our Constitution.
With the Electronic Cyber Crime bill, Pakistan has the momentous opportunity to set the
benchmark in South Asia and the Global South in right to free speech online. This right
necessitates freedom from persecution for all citizens who use digital communications
platforms to express opinions, dissent, or critique against the state. As Benjamin
Franklin said, Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing
the freeness of speech.
In an era where individuals, non-governmental organizations and international
institutions rely on the multiplier effect of social media and digital news outlets to
highlight issues of injustice and human rights violations, it doesnt augur well for the
countrys freedom of speech and human rights index to even consider this Ordinance.
Digital Rights foundation demands and calls on the senators to protect the rights to
freedom of speech and privacy in accordance with Pakistans obligations under
international conventions, remove the clause of cyber crimes from Pakistan Protection
Ordinance 2014 and revise the law with the consultation of relevant stake holders.
Contact: nighat@digitalrightsfoundation.pk
Source : http://digitalrightsfoundation.pk/2014/04/an-open-letter-to-senate-ofpakistan-regarding-pakista