Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 (PECA) has enacted provisions for prevention of electronic crimes  in consonance with the principles of human rights  enshrined in our Constitution and internationally  acclaimed  conventions such as International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) , Minister of State for Law and Justice Zafarullah Khan said.

He stated that PECA  has conducted detail deliberations on its contents prior to its introduction in the Parliament by the  Ministry of Information Technology  & Telecom in addition to other stakeholders including Tech houses, industry representatives and professionals from IT, Telecom , legal fraternity.

Minister of State further stressed that the process of public consultations has carried out even after its introduction in the National Assembly on the January 16, 2015.  Exclusive public hearings were also held by the respective standing committees of the National Assembly and notably by Senate in August 2015 and June 2016.  It is pertinent to mention here that the Government introduced  Bill on the subject was amended accordingly by both houses of the Parliament, thus the negative campaign against PECA is a tantamount to call into question the prerogative and bonafide intention of the law makers representing the people of Pakistan in the Parliament.  This implies that certain section driven by their own designs contrary to the wishes and aspirations of the general public of the society is trying to eclipse the exertions and dedications of the parliamentarians

Zafarullah Khan also said that the relentless efforts to paint a negative image of  PECA as a retrogressive law pivoted on  instigating a baseless propaganda to malign the country at the international forum.  This particular quarter position its ill intended efforts on the clauses of the bill  concerning   hate speech which is incorporated in consonance with Article 20 of ICCPR and which specifically prohibits any “propaganda for war; any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence”. 

Similarly, impression has been portrayed that the right of freedom to express one’s opinion have been thwarted under section 20 of PECA declaring public transmission of false information which one knows to be false, to intimidate or harm a person’s reputation or privacy as an offence punishable by a maximum detention for 3 years, he added.

Minister of State for law said that the right to freedom of expression carries special duties and responsibilities have also been integrated in PECA under Article 19 & 19-A of the Constitution in line with Article 19 (3) of ICCRP.   Hence, the said provision includes  only  the propagation of  “false information” . Fair and constructive criticism, opinion or true assertions do not fall under the purview of this provision unlikely to generate any impact on investigative work/journalism.

The legislation of cybercrime law is need of the hour to safeguard public from nefarious elements in the society and the efforts of certain section to raise objections  and make it controversial is  a  matter of sheer lack of understanding of the overall legal system of Pakistan. PECA, except in cases  where specific offences have been committed due to advancements in information technology, is to be construed in the light of  provisions in the Pakistan Penal Code, added the state Minister.

Zafarullah Khan stressed that utmost care and attention have been taken to safeguard the public from abuse of the law itself  and in this connection , principles  delineated in PECA for the prescription of detailed implementation framework as rules inter alia for investigation, training of investigation agency’s officials, Standard Operating Procedures for international cooperation and operations of an independent forensic laboratory.  A high level ministerial committee has been instituted to carry out this task.