Cyber Crime Bill ’07 Seminar – Call For Action

mcgruff98.gifYesterday 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

UPDATE: Zahid Jamil’s Presentation has also been embedded within this article

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)

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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 imagination vocabulary, 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)

  1. A pressure group must be created to contest this bill forcing a total write-up according to industry standards
  2. An online petition should be launched to promote this effort

  3. Local and International media must be used to exert pressure on the Ministry of IT to readdress all genuine issues
  4. T2F is arranging for a series of repeat seminars to better explain the impact of this draconian law
  5. Creation of an online campaign, banners, buttons etc
  6. 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
  7. A website, (temporarily I have placed this issue on the Don’t Block the Blog – website until we decide to form something else), A mailing list.
  8. 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

11 Comments so far

  1. Jehan (unregistered) on September 8th, 2007 @ 10:32 am

    This Bill has been drafted by the Ministry of IT & Telecom, passed through the Cabinet, cleared by the Ministry of Law and has been adopted by the Cabinet. All that remains for it to be enacted into law is for it to be passed by the National Assembly.

    Some of us have been agitating against it for the past few years asking for amendments to be made but it continues to be in its original form with only a few of our concerns being addressed.

    This affects all of us – business, individuals, civil society, bloggers – in fact anyone that uses a computer or a mobile phone. It gives too much authority – search and siezure – with no protection. For those of you who remember the Faisal Chohan case, this opens the doors to much more misuse of power.

  2. Obi Wan Kenobi (unregistered) on September 8th, 2007 @ 11:02 am

    Dr. Sahib you are losing credibility here. I quickly went via the pdf file and I do not see any thing objectionable that would alarm me. Why do you have to create an issue out of nothing. These laws are just guide lines to be interpreted even if there is some thing you find questionable. You sound like those NGOs who would come out on the streets for the killing of gorilla.

    What is wrong with the following ?

    “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 offence of cyber terrorism.”

    These laws are made for our own safety. You sound like those Americans who always have objections when they are asked to remove shoes at air ports. Can’t you under stand this rules are gonna help us.

  3. Inspirex (unregistered) on September 8th, 2007 @ 11:52 am

    The bill is draconian because of the insane lack of clarity.

    Obi: Under the current draft of the bill, you could be picked up, roughed up, with your equipment confiscated and/or destroyed,thrown in prison, without legal recourse for atleast a year, just for logging on to a system or sending an email that contained a self replicating worm. Now most pc users have worms on their computers and they dont know it until their friends complain of recieving weird emails from them.

    Given the situation now, would you appreciate such a law?

    Im sorry I could not make it yesterday, will do my best to be there today.

  4. Obi Wan Kenobi (unregistered) on September 8th, 2007 @ 12:05 pm

    Inspirex: And you think that they would be following the people sending worms in emails. But if you spread worms like 4/26 “intentionally” then you are culprit of course and this law clearly states about “terrorism” intent. Too much time in hand to think for non existing issues ??

  5. Adnan Siddiqi (unregistered) on September 8th, 2007 @ 1:16 pm

    well fact of the matter is that laws in Pakistan are nothing but few lines on paper. The incident of Faisal Chauhan is not an example of following a law but of Ghunda Gardi which is not dependant on any law. If they have to pick someone, they will not open law books first to find out whether they are doing something apt or not.

    I think that the whole excercise is quite funny. Wasting of time, nothing else.

  6. Adnan Siddiqi (unregistered) on September 8th, 2007 @ 1:22 pm

    Majority of Pakistanis don’t use computers. If you guys utilize your time and energy to fix police laws which affect majority of Pakistanis (98%+) then it would be much better for others. This is not US where people are dependant to use Internet to buy a Pizza.

  7. Teeth Maestro (unregistered) on September 8th, 2007 @ 1:57 pm

    OBW – I understand your argument, it was also my reaction when I read the draft bill, apparently it seems to cover everything but mind you a closer look and understanding of the terms used suggests its all hogwash with absolute no protection for the innocent.

    The issue here is not to prevent the bill – this I feel is an important issue, but instead to formulate a law that allows governments to enforce a law and order but at the same time should protect the rights of citizens.

  8. cardinal (unregistered) on September 8th, 2007 @ 2:41 pm

    in the subcontinent YOU ARE GUILTY 1st , Innocent later.

    DSL users who have fixed IPs will be 1st victims, of that LAW.

    Law in Pakistan is much cheaper then a mauripur adda fagot whore who do the blow job to cleaners n drivers etc etc.

    If you pay right price, you can walk away from a murder. so no worries.

    Question is –
    would it be implemented and enforced ? NO, it will be used only to threaten the innocent people. It will be used as a TOOL for extortion from all those who carry laptops across as part of their attire.

    It sure is a threat, and we shall be united AGAINST it.

    adnan siddiqui included.

  9. Teeth Maestro (unregistered) on September 8th, 2007 @ 2:44 pm

    Adnan – Energy is an important issue along with proper mass transit. I am with you hand in hand for the same, but don’t condemn a genuine issue which has the potential of significantly impacting our daily lives now as well as in the future.

    It may be 2% of the population which uses computers today, but very soon it will blow into astornomical numbers – do you feel this wont happen?. I feel once enforced, like all other laws (which deliberately have loopholes built into them for exploitation) will hand the cyber police ultimate powers which to misuse this law in any way the please.

    I also feel this is the perfect time to correct the bill when it is being implemented for the first time – as in the future it will be progressively difficult to change a standing law – one that is flawed in such a massive way would need to be annulled and redrafted even then

  10. Adnan Siddiqi (unregistered) on September 9th, 2007 @ 1:58 pm

    I am not condemning. Infact when I did mention very early about Faisal Chuhan issue on blog before anyone else after reading in papers. The point was that we are intentionally or unintentionally keep shifting our focus from core issues of masses. Offcourse when you are so much influential due to various reason then your voice would be more respected and taken seriously than anyone else.

    @Cardinal: let me correct you that it’s not necessary that DSL would have a fixed ip. my ptcl dsl doesn’t assign me a fixed broadcast IP since i am on DHCP. Second, static or dynamic, it doesn’t matter as all ips are logged and could be traced easily.

  11. basit (unregistered) on September 10th, 2007 @ 3:20 pm

    The incident of Faisal Chauhan is not an example of following a law but of Ghunda Gardi which is not dependant on any law. If they have to pick someone, they will not open law books first to find out whether they are doing something apt or not.

    I think that the whole excercise is quite funny. Wasting of time, nothing else.

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