Govt urged to devise policy to address cyber security (The Nation (Pakistan))

Speakers at a twoday cyber conference on Thursday said Pakistan has proved to be more religiously orthodox than Saudi Arabia by continuing ban on videosharing website Youtube for the last three years, asking the authorities to lift the ban immediately.
“The government could not introduce any policy on Youtube and banning the website in the country is a silly decision,” Senator Mushahid Hussain said, citing the inability of the government’s inability about internet governing laws, adding that even Saudi Arabia did not block Youtube but it is blocked for the last three years in Pakistan.
The twoday Pakistan Cyberspace Conference has begun in Islamabad with the aim to open debate on internet freedoms, related human rights, the rightful role of the state in governing internet and encouraging masses to participate in internet policymaking in Pakistan.
Bytes of All, Pakistan in coordination with its global partners The Citizen Lab, Global Partner Digital, the Royal Embassy of the Netherlands and the Canadian High Commission in Pakistan is organising the conference in the backdrop of Global Cyberspace Conference scheduled to take place in The Hague, Netherlands in April 2015.
Addressing the conference’s inaugural session, Senator Mushahid Hussain who is also Chairman Senate Standing Committee on Defense said that issues of cyber warfare and cyber security are of immense importance and the public debates should be encouraged in this regard. He urged the government to devise a governance policy, which simultaneously addresses cyber security issues, internet freedoms and related rights of the citizens.
Criticising the government for not having any internet policy, Senator Mushahid called upon the government to come up with a transparent alternative solution in protecting internet freedoms and the cyber security in Pakistan.
The Netherlands Ambassador Marcel de Vink in his speech said that cyberspace is an important topic and Pakistan is a major partner in the global society. “Enormous potential of growth exists in Pakistan when it comes to internet efficacy, the stakeholders should ensure that internet remains free, open and secure,” the ambassador said.
He added that security and trust of internet users is very important. Marcel stressed for investing in the coalitions and focusing on the best practices in this regard.
Director The Citizen Lab, Toronto University, Professor Dr Ronald Deibert in his keynote emphasised that the rise of national security paradigm is disastrous for open internet and related human rights and freedoms.
Talking about cyber security, Professor Ron, Head of Foreign Policy and Diplomacy in Canadian High Commission in Pakistan, Bernard McPhail on this occasion said that internet use should not be discriminatory; rather all individuals should be given equal access to the internet.
“Openness of internet makes it an excellent tool for advancing human rights and democracy,” McPhail said, adding that all offline rights including freedom of expression, association, assembly and privacy should also be extended online as well. Earlier, Country Director Bytes for All, Pakistan Shahzad Ahmed in his welcome speech highlighted the major areas related to Information and Communication Technology, state of internet freedoms and the governing policies in Pakistan. Shahzad stressed on the need for national level discussion on cyber security given its implications.
Director General Coordination, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority Wasiullah Khan during the panel discussion said that the authority does not have the mandate of surveillance; rather it is just an authority regulating the telecommunication industry and protecting the consumers’ rights.
Yasser Latif Hamdani, a lawyer engaged in public interest litigation on digital rights, said if any surveillance happens in a country, it should be protected by the law, but unfortunately Pakistan is lacking such law that determines or crystallizes the privacy and other online issues. “Our judges and judiciary is illequipped that they are unable to deal with cyber issues in Pakistan”, Hamdani added.
Awami National Party’s (ANP) leader and former MNA Bushra Gohar during the panel discussion told the participants that telephones of every parliamentarian are being bugged in the premises of the parliament of Pakistan only to intimidate them.
She said that Pakistan has become a security state, and there has been a constant struggle between the democracy and security narratives. She stressed for the need to review the processes and encouraging more open debates on these issues.
Ammar Jaffry, former chairman, cyber security task force of Pakistan said that only those involved in ‘fishy’ activities should be worried about the monitoring. He said that cyber security is an important and complicated issue and even governments struggle to deal with it.