Government afraid of social media & people's political awareness: Dr Raheeq Abbasi

Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) organized a debate on 'The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act' in the central secretariat today. PAT President Dr Raheeq Abbasi was the keynote speaker at the debate, while other speakers such as Amir Yusuf, Chaudhry Shahzad Sadiq, Abdul Sattar Minhajian, Razi-ur-Rehman Tahir, Imad Sheikh, Shoaib Tahir, Irfan Yousuf, Ayesha Shabbir and members of Pat social media team were present during the debate.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Raheeq Abbasi said that PAT rejects this controversial piece of law being enacted by the federal government that has a clear political undertone. He said that the government wants to get such a law passed by Parliament in the name of measures to control cyber crimes some of whose provisions starkly clash against fundamental right of freedom of expression. He said that it appears that the government is fearful of criticism being done on social media and resolute political consciousness of the masses.

Dr Raheeq Abbasi said that if the proposed Act got passed in its present shape, it would seriously impinge upon rights of the internet users, youth and undermine IT industry and media. He said that the government wants to get a black law enacted which will adversely affect fundamental rights, adding that there is no other objective of this law but to muzzle the political opponents.

Throwing light on Clauses 17 and 18 of the proposed Act, Amir Yusuf Chaudhry said that comic sketches based on political criticism will be considered as crime under these provisions, which is punishable by one-year imprisonment and Rs. one million as fine. He said that the government wants to gag the political opponents. It has further been mentioned in Clause 21 of the draft law that sending an email to anyone without his permission will be a crime, which means that no political party will be able to invite press to its functions. The government, he said, would also have a right to close any website.

Shahzad Sadiq, in his views on the occasion, said that the proposed law has created a great deal of concern among the youth and hundreds of thousands of people associated with the IT industry. He said that if the government tried to encroach on the fundamental right of freedom of expression, it would have to face grave consequences for this draconian law.

Abdul Sattar Minhajian said on the occasion that some of the paid unwise and fake intellectuals have impressed upon the government the need of 'controlling' the social media because social media has played a central role in the political movements that have swept across the world so that the government could be saved from the wrath and agitation of the people.

Ayesha Shabbir said that the attested copy of draft law available with us is not acceptable at any cost. She asked the government to advertise the controversial piece of law and get it passed by Parliament by seeking and incorporating the opinions and input of all stakeholders.

Irfan Yousuf said that the members of Standing Committee should exercise due care while passing the draft law as the matter involves fundamental rights of people. He said that it is alright to stop objectionable material but it should not mean that criticism on the government is treated as punishable offence. He said that there would be fierce protest against the government if it tried to pass the draft law in its present shape. He said that PAT would take resort to court of law against this piece of legislation.