Pakistani organization participates in cyberwarfare exercise

Members of a Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) in Islamabad engaged in an international online drill on March 11, 2020 to test preparedness against cyber attacks. (AN photo)
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Updated 13 March 2020

Pakistani organization participates in cyberwarfare exercise

  • The country’s gradual shift to digital economy has made it more vulnerable to online threats
  • The cyber drill is a competition between 25 countries to test their cyber capabilities

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Information Security Association (PISA) on Wednesday participated in the annual cyberwarfare drill organized by the Asia Pacific Computer Emergency Response Team (APCERT) to test the capability of leading Computer Security Incident Response Teams (CSIRT) in the Asia Pacific and other regions of the world.
The exercise simulated real incidents and issues that exist on the Internet, informed an official statement released by the regional body, adding that the participants handled a case of a local business affected by malware infection triggered by data breach.
“This cyber drill is a competition between 25 countries to test their cyber capabilities,” said PISA President Ammar Jaffri while talking to Arab News. “There are tests called artifacts [products developed into different phases of software testing life cycle] and [the simulation is] like cyberwarfare or cyber games.”
“The people taking part in the cyber drill have to tell what was the pattern of the attack, what was the area of the attack, how much damage has been incurred, and how the damage has been mitigated,” Jaffri, a veteran cyber security expert who founded the Federal Investigation Agency’s National Response Center for Cyber Crime (NR3C) in 2007, continued.
He added that his team secured the third position in the cyber competition drill last year. However, the result of this year’s ranking is scheduled to be announced on March 13.
Experts have frequently pointed out that Pakistan lacks a comprehensive cybersecurity policy. In November last year, a European nonprofit organization, EU DisinfoLab, uncovered a huge Indian network of 265 fake media outlets spread across 65 countries that designed content “to influence [the policymaking processes of] the European Union and the United Nations by repeatedly criticizing Pakistan.” However, the country lacked the institutional mechanism to deal with the problem and only became aware of its magnitude after the EU DisinfoLab reported its findings.
Meanwhile, Pakistan has introduced special cyber laws to police the internet and social media platforms to block content that is deemed against local sensitivities.
Jaffri said that Pakistan needed to devise a policy framework and develop an institutional mechanism to handle online challenges since the country was gradually moving toward digital economy.
“Cyberspace is by default global,” he noted, “so we have to respond to the global initiatives as a country.”


Pakistan’s industrialists hope for tax cuts, relief measures in budget

Updated 4 min 56 sec ago

Pakistan’s industrialists hope for tax cuts, relief measures in budget

  • Business community demands reduction in rates and number of existing taxes for the revival of sluggish economy
  • Economists believe revenue collection and locust control will pose major challenges to the government

KARACHI: As Pakistan focuses on stimulating growth and creating jobs in the upcoming federal budget, the country’s business community called for slashing taxes and introducing relief measures to bring the economy out of its sluggish mode while economists predicted that revenue collection would continue to constitute a major challenge for the government.
Pakistan is expected to present its income and expenditure plan for the next fiscal year (FY2020-21) in the coming week, with a focus to spur the economic growth without imposing new taxes.
“The focus of the upcoming budget is to stimulate growth and create jobs. The focus of the [$8 billion] stimulus package is toward providing support to business, in particular [small and medium enterprises] through payroll loans at subsidized rates, deferral of principal and interest payments for one year and quick disbursement of all as refunds to business,” Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue, told Arab News last week in an exclusive interview.
He also categorically denied that there would be new taxes in the upcoming budget.
Pakistan’s business community expects that the government will come up with a relief package for the revival of the country’s economy to avoid its further weakening amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have proposed that the government should give relief to industries across the board like the one given to the construction industry because it is vital for the revival of the economy,” Agha Shahab Ahmed Khan, President of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), told Arab News. “The reforms and recovery will automatically follow.”
Industrialists say the government must focus on the means of creating wealth by adopting appropriate measures and offering suitable incentives such as the ones witnessed in other countries. “If there is no wealth creation, there will be no wealth distribution. This may also lead to social disruption in the country,” the KCCI president said, adding: “We have suggested that sales tax should be brought down to a single digit from 17 percent to spur business activities.”
Industrialists also hope that apart from revising the tax rates, the number of taxes will also be reduced by the government. “We expect that the number of taxes will reduce as part of the ease of doing business initiative under the current circumstances. In Punjab, the government has imposed about 130 different taxes,” Almas Hyder, an industrialist and former president of the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), told Arab News.
“The government must expedite the refund process,” she continued, adding: “I say this because this has impacted the cash flow of companies.”
Muhammad Ahmed, President of the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI), concurred with Hyder, saying: “There is no doubt that refunds are being paid, but income tax refunds have not been issued. We should be given permission to adjust that money with the government in the shape of customs duties or sales tax.”
The ICCI president called for measures to make the upcoming budget business-friendly in the prevailing environment.
“The budget should be business-friendly since that will help us make the economy flourish. If new businesses cannot be set up, at least the existing ones that have suffered setbacks should be allowed to survive and sustain in these difficult times,” he added.
As business community demands relief in the upcoming budget, the country’s economists predict that the government is likely to face major revenue constraints due to a decline in the collection rate within the current economic framework. “If you have no income, you will not be able to make expenditures,” Dr. Abdul Qayyum Suleri, member of the government’s Economic Advisory Council (EAC), told Arab News.
“The second major challenge the government is facing is the locust attack which is going to cost the country about Rs 1 trillion in the worst case scenario. If the damage is contained, the loss will be about Rs 250 billion,” he added.
However, Dr. Khaqan Najeeb, who was part of the budget-making process last year since he worked as an adviser with the finance ministry, suggested that the next budget could be crafted with a different approach, keeping in mind resource generation through tax compliance, deficit reduction by curtailing expenditures, and deficit financing by shifting to non-debt creating instruments.
“Shifting the financing of budget to non-debt creating instruments is the only way to flatten the curve on debt build-up. Divestment, past recoveries, collecting dividends from state-owned companies, arrears of taxes and energy, all can contribute in financing the deficit. This can restore the public’s flagging faith in the integrity of the policymakers to break the debt cycle,” he added.
Dr. Suleri said that apart from debt servicing, defense and administrative costs and development expenditure’s additional resources would be required to fund the health sector and locust control operations.
“Pakistan will need about $15 billion of additional borrowing amid remittance, foreign investment and export decline,” he noted while observing: “Two sectors – energy and loss making public sector enterprises – will be under pressure since the International Monetary Fund may object to budget allocations. Increase in salaries and pensions may fall into this category.”
Economists expect that few ongoing development projects will be financed while major share of funds is likely to be diverted to the health sector in the current situation.