Yesterday a few concerned Pakistanis gathered together at The Second Floor to discuss the Cyber Crime Bill (Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2007). The event was hosted at T2F and sponsored by Alchemy Technologies allowing Barrister Zahid Jamil an opportunity to explain / interpret in simpler terms the impact of this bill on our daily lives once this bill has been promulgated into effect by the National Assembly.
To be honest when I was informed of the seminar I was interested to find out what the fuss was all about, the reading material provided was interesting but made little sense until Zahid explained the legal implications of such a bill if promulgated as is. After the two hours of understanding the problem I am worried enough to feel the need to push the government to revamp the bill and poses to be a very dangerous law for us all, forget the criminals with, it can easily affect innocent Pakistanis who use computers on a daily basis, very simple issues like the act of formatting your hard disk [Destruction of Data] can lead you to a seven years in jail &/or Rs. 1 Million in fines. The consequences appear to have far more serious implications then what Faisal Chohan faced in 2006
There are seemingly 21 ‘cyber’ issues ranging from Malicious code, Cyber Terrorism to spamming and spoofing, overtly it may seem to cover all aspects of the new digital era but a closer and detailed look shows quite the contrary, allow me to explain, as novice trying to decipher Zahid’s excellent explanation (For those bored by the technicality head down to the Call for Action section at the bottom)
- Practically in all issues the government has gone the extra mile to reinvent a new definition, significantly deviating from the internationally accepted norms leaving more grey areas for confusion / exploitation within the law
- There seems to be an elaborate play of words within the document, which does nothing, but allow room for the regulating body (FIA) to confuse and entrap the innocent people, a ‘book ‘em up’ charge sheet on all counts
- The FIA, has been given complete and unrestricted control to arrest and confiscate material as they feel necessary, without forcing them to present a credible case before an arrest warrant is issued, if the FIA follows the law by the book they can pick up any person or property, hold them in custody for up to one year (extensions allowed) before even presenting the case in court. A very dangerous supposition as it opens the door for the rouge FIA agency to do as they please without any safeguards and protection for the innocent
- I share with you one example of the hideous nature of the bill. The Government has literally attempted to insert a new word in the English language, when the bill discusses the law of Cyber Terrorism (item #17)
Cyber Terrorism: Any person, group or organization who, with terroristic intent utilizes, accesses or causes to be accessed a computer or computer network or electronic system or electronic device or by any available means, and thereby knowingly engages in or attempts to engage in a terroristic act commits the offense of cyber terrorism.
The word TERRORISTIC is without doubt a figment of their
imaginationvocabulary, hence they attempt to define the word, quite literally compounding the problem at hand
Explanation 1.–For the purposes of this section the expression “terroristic intent” means to act with the purpose to alarm, frighten, disrupt, harm, damage, or carry out an act of violence against any segment of the population, the Government or entity associated therewith.
Explanation 2.– For the purposes of this section the expression “terroristic act” includes, but is not limited to,–
- (a) altering by addition, deletion, or change or attempting to alter information that may result in the imminent injury, sickness, or death to any segment of the population;
- (b) transmission or attempted transmission o a harmful program with the purpose of substantially disrupting or disabling any computer network operated by the Government or any public entity;
- (c) aiding the commission of or attempting to aid the commission of an act of violence against the sovereignty of Pakistan, whether or not the commission of such act of violence is actually completed; or
- (d) stealing or copying, or attempting to steal or copy, or secure classified information or data necessary to manufacture any form of chemical, biological or nuclear weapon, or any other weapon of mass destruction.
It seems the above example they have actually defined what real-life terrorism might be, but fail to explain what they mean by the word Cyber in cyber terrorism, if they hope to mean cyber-stalking, which incidentally is already covered as item #13 (this also has one too many loopholes). They could also be referring to the actual real-life Terrorism but that too as I am told is extensively covered in the Anti-Terrorism Ordinance of 1999. What I share is the concern that there happens to be no clear-cut explanation on how a Cyber Terrorism crime is committed.
This is only ONE example only, but actually there are gaping holes in practically all 21 items of the Digital Crimes Act. They even go to the extent that for eg. everyday usage of a Microsoft Windows software on your computer (which is famously known to be buggy) can land you with a punishable crime of seven years behind bars, How? Under the Malicious Code section [item 13] it seems that any code that crashes and damages the data on your computer can make you guilty of the crime. an oversimplified example
Call For Action (in development)
- A pressure group must be created to contest this bill forcing a total write-up according to industry standards An online petition should be launched to promote this effort
- Local and International media must be used to exert pressure on the Ministry of IT to readdress all genuine issues
- T2F is arranging for a series of repeat seminars to better explain the impact of this draconian law
- Creation of an online campaign, banners, buttons etc
- Due to the complex nature of the argument, we would like to entertain ideas from willing film makers / animators to help us create a short documentary (10 minutes for YouTube) – URGENT CALL – Saturday 8th September 4:00pm at T2F
- A website, (temporarily I have placed this issue on the Don’t Block the Blog – DBTB.org website until we decide to form something else), A mailing list.
- These are just initial steps and I hope we can rally concerned Pakistanis for this cause
Zahid Jamil’s Presentation made at T2F
I must confess this presentation does little justice to his actual verbal comments but its important to understand the issue – Zahid has BOLDED the important words in the draft bill that are of serious concern
Disclaimer: This entire article is written with my own limited understanding of law and would gladly amend and correct mistakes if any