Over two decades ago, the National Research Council of USA warned the world of the potential danger of cyber-crimes in a report titled ‘Computers at risk’, published in 1991.It stated: “The modern thief can steal more with a computer than with a gun. Tomorrow’s terrorist may be able to do more damage with a keyboard than with a bomb.”
Today, the things have drastically changed with the information technology playing a major part in the lives of an individual. The more dependence on the internet and computer is leading to increased risk of privacy, security and cyber terrorism. Not just cyber-crimes have affected the lives of individuals but also posing a great threat to organizations, especially with the rise in e-commerce and m-commerce.
Where most of the countries are enacting cyber laws to keep a check on the online communication in the environment, the possibility of such law seems a far reality in Pakistan. Considering the high population of internet users of about 23 million, the absence of a regulatory system in this regard seems quiet perplexing. Although the work was initiated in 2007 with the introduction of Prevention of Electronic Crime Ordinance, no measures were taken to transform it into a law. Does that mean we are immune to growing number of cyber-crimes or does it reflect the negligence on the part of authorities to be considerate of the emerging threats from the new technology? To say the least, cyber-crimes are one of the increasing threats in the country and a cyber-law is the need of time. Let us explain, why so?
The need for a cyber-law
When we say cyber law very much needed in Pakistan; it is because of the following stated facts.
- The Federal Investigation Agency’s Cyber Crime cell receives about 10-12 complaints daily regarding cyber-crimes. These numbers are only for Karachi
- Hacking and property theft have become a regular practice. More recently, some of the major websites of companies like PTCL, Karachi Stock Exchange and Pakistan Army were reported to be hacked.
- With information sharing on the social networking websites, increased theft of private property and misuse has been reported.
The above mentioned reasons and increased frauds in mobile and e-banking depict the vulnerabilities of the cyber world. Hence in order to tackle the cyber-crimes and ensure successful and smooth E-commerce and virtual communication, the government needs to step up efforts to enact a cyber-law in the country. But are the authorities too deaf to put an ear to the growing concerns of the citizens of Pakistan?
What’s wrong with cyber Law?
The growing internet population for Pakistan makes one wonder about the mere absence of a regulatory mechanism to monitor the virtual world. It is wrong to say that there haven’t been any efforts in this regards –quite a few though – these didn’t turn out to be productive.
In 2007, President Musharraf’s Government introduced Prevention of Electronic Crime Ordinance which was promulgated thrice but bitterly lapsed in 2009. The ordinance was reported to have some loopholes and was criticized greatly due to which it could not be transformed into an act. Some of legislators believed that it would make Pakistani society outcast in the cyber world. In order to fix these loopholes, the ordinance was sent to a house Committee after which it faded in misery.
Now after three years, the cyber law has once again become the focal point of the higher authorities. In a recently held high-level meeting, our interior Minister Rehman Malik has ordered the concerned authorities from different sector to prepare a draft on cyber law in the country. The move came after the showcasing of abhorrent anti-Islam film on YouTube which prompted government to block its services in Pakistan.
Before this, the telecom sector has been working closely with different stakeholders to review the virtual laws in the country. But until now, there has been no further productivity in this regard. After the announcement of a possible draft to be presented, the enactment of a cyber-law still seems a distant dream because of the possibility that it might not please all the stakeholders involved.
Until and unless all the state actors cooperate and accelerate the process of enhancing the regulatory mechanism in the country; it cannot become successful. Hence, one can only hope that the draft to be presented this time comes as an improved version over the previous version and manages to enter the country’s jurisdiction rather than being sent to any other committee.
(The article was written for Rasala Publications Group’s Brand, CIOPakistan)