Pakistan to bring social media giants under local regulations

In this file photo, Pakistani pedestrians wait for transport as they stand in front of an advertisement for a cellular telephone in Rawalpindi on May 14, 2010. (AFP)
Updated 06 December 2019

Pakistan to bring social media giants under local regulations

  • Law ministry vetting the draft bill in this regard, says PM’s adviser on digital media
  • Twitter suspended 396 accounts of Pakistani users in recent days

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is drafting new laws to ensure that social media companies, including Twitter and Facebook, operate under local rules and regulations, the prime minister’s adviser on digital media said on Friday, adding that the government also wanted to bring these organizations into the tax net.
The move comes after the government faced numerous legal challenges in recent months to negotiate with the micro-blogging websites to get offensive posts removed, restore suspended accounts of hundreds of Pakistani users, and ensure other digital rights of its citizens.
“The draft bill is currently being vetted by the Ministry of Law,” Dr. Arslan Khalid, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s focal person on digital media, told Arab News. “Once enacted it will help us make social media websites follow our local rules and regulations.”
He said that all relevant ministries and government departments had given their input during the preparation of the draft law which would “hopefully come into force soon.”
Pakistan is one of the major markets for social media platforms where around 70 million people are internet users in a population of 208 million, and the broadband penetration, including 3G and 4G, is rapidly increasing with the improved telecom infrastructure and reach in the country’s remote areas.
“The new laws will also help us bring social media platforms within the ambit of taxation,” Khalid said.
In the absence of local laws for social media platforms, Pakistani users frequently fall victim to the account suspension policy of these platforms. Owing to a lack of proper legal framework, he added, Pakistan was currently negotiating with social media companies on “request-based applications only.”
Twitter recently suspended 396 accounts of Pakistani users which the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority’s (PTA) spokesperson, Khurram Mehran, said was “against the set principles of freedom of speech.”
He continued that the PTA had reported the suspended accounts to Twitter administration, but only 66 of them had so far been restored. “Twitter has suspended accounts of Pakistani users without any warning and on unsubstantiated grounds,” he told Arab News.
However, the social media giant said the suspension of Pakistani users’ accounts was in line with the company’s policy.
“Platform manipulation, including spam and other attempts to undermine the public conversation, is a clear violation of the Twitter Rules,” a spokesperson for Twitter said on Thursday in response to email queries by Arab News.
“We take proactive action against millions of accounts each week for violating our policies in this area,” the spokesperson said.
The PM’s adviser on digital media admitted that some Pakistani users’ accounts may have been suspended for violating the company’s community guidelines as “there is a need to increase digital literacy in the country.”
Digital rights activists and cyber-security researchers have urged the government to formulate a comprehensive cyber-security policy to deal with all the modern and technological challenges.
“Until and unless our government formulates a cyber-security policy that is in line with the international conventions, we cannot hold social media platforms accountable,” Mubashir Sargana, a cyber-security researcher, told Arab News.


Pakistani PM urges action on Kashmir as UNGA president-elect in Islamabad 

Updated 10 August 2020

Pakistani PM urges action on Kashmir as UNGA president-elect in Islamabad 

  • Khan briefs Volkan Bozkir about “ongoing gross and systematic violations of human rights of the Kashmiri people”
  • Says UN must play ‘rightful role’ in ensuring Kashmiris get right to self-determination under relevant UN resolutions 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday met with the UN General Assembly president-elect who arrived in Islamabad on a two-day visit, urging the United Nations to play its “rightful role” in ensuring the right of self-determination for the people of the disputed Kashmir region. 
The Himalayan region has long been a flashpoint in ties between nuclear-armed neighbors India and Pakistan, with both claiming Kashmir in full but ruling it in part. UN peacekeepers have been deployed since 1949 to observe a cease-fire between India and Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir.
The UN Security Council adopted several resolutions in 1948 and in the 1950s on the dispute between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir region, including one which says a plebiscite should be held to determine the future of mostly Muslim Kashmir.
A press release from the PM’s office said Khan briefed Volkan Bozkir about “ongoing gross and systematic violations of human rights of the Kashmiri people and the attempts to change the demographic structure of the occupied territory.”
“He stressed that the UN must play its rightful role in addressing the grave situation and ensuring that Kashmiris exercise their right to self-determination promised to them in the relevant UN Security Council resolutions,” the statement said. 
Last August, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government stripped Jammu and Kashmir — India’s only Muslim-majority state — of its special rights and split it into two federally administered territories. The government said the change was necessary to develop the revolt-torn region and integrate it with the rest of India, but it infuriated many Kashmiris as well as neighboring Pakistan.

In a series of tweets, Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi also welcomed the UNGA president-elect to Pakistan.

Bozkir has been elected as the President of UNGA’s 75th session.
“Pakistan strongly believes in the importance of a multilateral world anchored on the tenants of peace, progress and stability,” Qureshi said. “It is in this spirit, we welcomed @UN General Assembly President Elect @volkan_bozkir to #Pakistan for a constructive and fruitful visit.”
“Pakistan has consistently supported & valued the @UN’s significant role in global affairs and we continue to strengthen bonds within the institution of the UN be it for conflict resolution, peacekeeping, sustainable development, health, economic & social cooperation et al,” the foreign minister added. 
Qureshi said Pakistan reinforced its position of peace and stability in the region, and was pursuing a policy of diplomatic accord globally, as he thanked the UNGA president elect for his visit, which he said was “a manifestation of the UN’s belief in Pakistan’s commitment to a secure and harmonious future.”