The Global Network Initiative is concerned that the Government of Pakistan’s Cybercrime Bill will usher in a new era of unprecedented restriction on the free flow of information for its citizens.

We understand that the Prevention of Electronic Crime Bill 2015 (PECB) has recently been finalized by the National Assembly Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunications, and is now under discussion and could be voted on at any time.

The GNI consulted with our international company, civil society and academic membership on the PECB. We are concerned that the Bill has numerous inconsistencies, lacks meaningful oversight mechanisms, contains overbroad and draconian provisions that would criminalize ordinary Internet usage and technological innovation, and would be detrimental to Pakistani citizens’ privacy and access to information.

The ability of citizens to share information and participate in civic and commercial life online is an essential foundation of human dignity and educational advancement. Open and secure access to the Internet is also essential for participation in the emerging information economy. The unchecked censorship and surveillance provisions in the Bill risk undermining these important human and economic development opportunities and could constitute a setback to commercial innovation and other societal benefits of information and communications technologies.

GNI respects the legitimate right of governments to protect national security and public safety. However, international human rights norms require that limitations on freedom of expression and privacy for such legitimate aims must be lawful, necessary and proportionate. The PECB, as it is currently drafted, fails to meet these standards.

GNI urges the Government of Pakistan to withdraw the bill, and to set up a review committee to redraft legislation that is consistent with international standards and practices. We also call upon parliamentarians to reject this Bill as it is currently drafted, and recommend that its provisions be subject to thorough independent review.