ISLAMABAD: The opposition parties on Sunday lambasted the PTI-led government for promulgating ordinances to amend The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 and the Election Act, describing the move as an attempt to “muzzle the freedom of expression” and “allowing ministers to use state resources for their election campaigns while in office”.
Taking to Twitter, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz wrote that apparently these laws were aimed at gagging the opposition and media but eventually they would be counterproductive.
یہ حکومت جو بھی قوانین بنا رہی ہے کہنے کو تو میڈیا اور اپوزیشن کی آواز بند کرنے کے لیے ہے مگر یہ قوانین عمران اینڈ کمپنی کے خلاف استعمال ہونے والے ہیں۔ پھر نا کہنا بتایا نہیں!— Maryam Nawaz Sharif (@MaryamNSharif) February 20, 2022
“Don’t say we didn’t warn you,” she added.
PPP Senator Sherry Rehman also took a swipe at the government for bypassing parliament to implement these laws through ordinances.
She tweeted that in its bid to shut down dissent even further, the government was using a presidential ordinance to amend cybercrime laws that would be “sweeping and draconian in scope”.
#Tabahisarkar has prorogued parliament to pass a slew of presidential ordinances which would give their ministers the unprecedented ability to misuse state resources for campaigning for elections while in office. LB polls jolt.Shows how far gone they r in their fear of the people— SenatorSherryRehman (@sherryrehman) February 20, 2022
“Make no mistake, this is not about protecting the vulnerable from cyber predations; quite the opposite,” she added.
The PPP leader further said the government had amended the Elections Act to give the “ministers the unprecedented ability to issue state resources for campaigning for the elections while in office”.
In its bid to shut down dissent even further the Govt is using another presidential ordinance to amend cybercrime laws that will be sweeping and draconian in scope. Make no mistake,this is not about protecting the vulnerable from cyber predations; quite the opposite. #gagorderlaw— SenatorSherryRehman (@sherryrehman) February 20, 2022
LB polls jolt. Shows how far gone they are in their fear of the people,” she wrote, referring to the recent defat suffered by the ruling PTI in the recent Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa local government elections.
The PTI-led government, which has promulgated over 70 ordinances since August 2018, has been facing strong criticism for heavily relying on ordinances for legislation.
In October last year, the information technology ministry had notified new social media rules, allowing the telecom regulator to block any website or platform on the directions of a court, the federal government or interior ministry or under any law of the time.
The rules, titled the “Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards) Rules, 2021”, were framed under PECA, 2016.
The new social media rules did not offer any incentive and protection to the content creators on social media.
Under the rules, social media companies had to register with the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) within three months as well as establish their offices in the country “as and when feasible”.
The “service provider, social media company and significant social media company” would not knowingly host, display, upload, publish, transmit, update or share any online content in violation of local laws.
Not only the social media companies, but even the service providers were responsible for deploying mechanisms to ensure immediate blocking of live streaming through online information system in Pakistan related to terrorism, hate speech, pornographic, incitement to violence and detrimental to national security on receiving intimation from the PTA.