ISLAMABAD - The Senate yesterday unanimously passed the controversial cybercrime bill amid reservations of human rights organisations, civil society and IT industry.

The country’s first-ever legislation on this subject seeks to regulate the uncultivated cyber space and the upper house passed it with more than 50 amendments introduced by the opposition to make the law less intrusive and imperious.

However, the human rights bodies and civil society of the country still suspect that the law would be misadjusted by the law enforcement agencies against the innocent citizens for using the internet space through twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites.

The Prevention of Electronic Crime Act, 2016, as it has been named, was passed after the 11th hour negotiations of the government with the main opposition party - Pakistan People's Party (PPP). However, the PPP later said that the law was still imperfect and needs further improvement.

The bill, already passed by the National Assembly will now go back to the Lower House of the parliament for its approval or disapproval and if the lower house introduces further amendments, the bill would go into the joint sitting of the parliament for final parliamentary approval before being sent to President for his assent.

The chairman had to suspend the proceedings of the house for around two hours to give government and opposition enough time to negotiate the bill at the last moment before its passage.

PPP's Ms Sherry Rehman introduced some amendments in the bill in the final round of negotiations.

Later, MQM and PTI objected that they were not made part of these negotiations and MQM as a protest announced to abstain from voting. Aitzaz apologised to MQM unconditionally but added that the behaviour of PTI was strange.

He said opposition through amendments had given parliament oversight role besides strengthening judiciary’s oversight role to prevent misuse of this law by executing agencies.

He said this was best possible deal opposition could make as the government could get this bill passed from joint sitting without amendments.

One amendments, in clause 34, says that any person aggrieved from any order passed by the (execution) authority shall have the right to appeal against the decision before the High Court within 30 days.

Through another amendment in clause 49, the designated agency shall submit a half yearly report to both the houses of the parliament for consideration by the relevant committee in-camera in respect of its activities, without disclosing identity information.

Under the Chapter II of Offences and Punishments, total 23 offences related to Internet usage have been made punishable. The federal government may establish or designate a law enforcement agency as investigation agency for investigation of the offences under the Act.


Unauthorised access/data trasmission

A person gaining unauthorised access to any information or data through Internet shall face up to 3 months imprisonment or Rs50,000 fine or both.

A person copying or transmitting internet data without proper authorisation shall be imprisoned for up to 6 months or fined Rs100,000 or both.

A person gaining unauthorised access to any infrastructure information system or data shall face up to 3 years imprisonment or Rs1 million fine or both.

Similarly, a person copying or transmitting critical infrastructure data without authorisation shall be punished up to 7 years in prison or Rs10 million fine or both.

Terrorism-related cyber offences

A person glorifying an offence relating to terrorism or activities of proscribe organisations or individual groups on cyber space shall be punished with up to 7 years imprisonment or Rs10 million fine or both.

A person who through internet will advance inter-faith, sectarian or ethnic hatred or advance the objectives of organisations or groups or individuals proscribed under the law shall be imprisoned up to 15 years or Rs50 million fine or both.

The law bans recruitment, funding and planning of terrorism through Internet and its punishment is up to 7 years.

Electronic fraud

The punishment of electronic forgery will be up to 3 years imprisonment or fine.

Punishment for electronic fraud will be up to 2 years jail or Rs10 million fine.

Unauthorised issuance of SIM cards will invite up to 3 years imprisonment or Rs500,000 fine or both.

Similarly, making or supplying device for use of internet offence, unauthorised use of identity information, tempering of communication equipment, unauthorised interception, offence against dignity of natural person, offence against modesty of a natural person or minor, making of malicious codes, cyber stalking, spamming and spoofing through internet have made offences with different punishments under this law.

Anusha Rehman in her remarks said that cyber crime law was the need of the hour keeping in view the evolving technology in the world. She said that parliament had removed certain reservation of different segments of the society on this law after taking them on board and through public hearings.

"Except for offences of pornography and cyber terrorism, no person would be arrested without arrest warrants issued by the court," she said.

Earlier in the day, she also assured the house, that electronic and print media or licence holders of Pemra have been explicitly excluded from this law.

PPP Senator Sherry Rehman said, "It is a deeply imperfect bill and we have brought 55 amendments in it to save it from being legislated as black law."