Pakistan Needs Comms Security Not Restrictions

The Internet is becoming essential to modern life in Pakistan. These days, the loss of network access, whether for telephones or internet connectivity, soon starts to affect people’s ability to do business or interact socially – and in the longer term is directly affects citizens’ self-expression and self-determination. This is why we all saw such serious attempts by the governments of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya to cut off their people’s access to the Internet.

In recent years the Government of Pakistan has repeatedly placed restrictions on the use of the Internet. Technically mediated services have been often subjected to restrictions ranging from government regulation, intervention, censorship and outright blocking.

  • In 2006, the Pakistani government imposed a blanket ban on the Blogspot platform (comprising around 10 million individual websites), after several hosted blogs posted images of the controversial Mohammad cartoons originally published in the Dutch newspaper Jyllands-Posten.
  • The same year, the entire Wikipedia domain was blocked because one article (of approximately 3.5 million) contained information about the cartoons. This was only the first step of many.
  • The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has consistently banned Baloch news websites, and since July this year the Rolling Stone website has been blocked after it published a short blog post entitled ‘Pakistan’s Insane Military Spending’.

It is unfortunate that we have seen arbitrary decisions based on political and religious grounds that do not justify disruption of free flow of data affecting millions of lives from a diverse range of perspectives.

We have seen a correspondingly severe approach when it comes to internet surveillance. Recently, the government declared its intention to ban the use of data encryption.  This has now left millions of citizens vulnerable to widespread cybercrime (against which encryption and VPNs provide effective shielding) in order to allow the government unfettered access to user data, ostensibly for ‘security reasons’ (

This means that while the government sifts through user data looking for potential terrorism links, millions of citizens remain vulnerable to widespread cybercrime, against which encryption and VPNs provide effective shielding.

There are other worrying communications surveillance initiatives and plans.  The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has been a loyal customer of Narus, a company specializing in “dynamic network traffic intelligence and analytics software” (, since 2007 ( Amongst other services, Narus helps its clients gain network control and data-interception abilities; its technology was apparently used during the ‘Arab Spring’ by the erstwhile governments of Egypt and Libya, who attempted to defeat the pro-democratic revolutionary movements by suppressing internet communications.

Going forward, the Government of Pakistan has to ensure that it is not going to spy and silence its citizens like the recently ousted governments of Mubarak and Gaddafi.  It is the duty of the Government to ensure that there are effective laws that protect the rights to privacy, security, freedom of expression and unrestricted access to online content.

If national law does indeed dictate that Internet access be regulated, then it must be undertaken judiciously and with restraint. Sadly, this has not been the case so far.

This post originally appeared here Privacy International


Next Generation Identification In Pakistan

Pakistan faces some of the most unique socio-economic and developmental challenges in the world. A developing country with a population of around 180 million people and the frontline state in the “war on terror,” Pakistan is suffering acutely as the war takes its toll on all aspects of its development. Due to the worsening law and order situation, and in the name of national security, a huge population is deprived of its basic rights. Censorship and surveillance in the name of religion and national security is on the rise along with the government’s quest to build huge databases of citizens without any legal protection.

In an environment of escalating militancy and consequent violence in Pakistan, these complexities and contradictions severely undermine capacities for good governance, improved human rights and the restoration of order in the country.

Several governments around the world have large plans and grandiose ambitions to create a national DNA database. The desire of DNA profiling of all its citizens is far stronger in developing countries and authoritarian regimes like Pakistan. The government in Pakistan is also planning to develop a national database containing DNA profiles of all its citizens.1 This DNA database would then be linked to the world’s largest centralized biometric citizen database of around 90 million individual records: NADRA2 (National Database and Registration Authority) database also termed as Next Generation Identification (NGI).3

The idea behind the creation of a DNA database in Pakistan is to link it with the existing biometric based computerized national identity card system to track down criminals and terrorists. This database has lofty plans, such as identifying suicide bombers as well as the victims of accidents, man-made and natural disasters and military conflicts.

A meeting of civilian and military law enforcement agencies have already decided that NADRA would form and maintain a database on terrorists.4 NADRA would develop a biometric database of terrorists and criminals and make a tree of their family members available to law enforcement agencies.

During the recent terrorists attack on the Pakistan Naval Shipping (PNS) Mehran Base5 in Karachi, DNA tests were conducted in order to identify the terrorists. These samples were also matched with the NADRA database, which revealed that these terrorists were not registered Pakistanis.6 NADRA employed sophisticated biometric and facial recognition systems to attempt to identify the terrorists, but the system so far has not been successful in most such cases.

Pakistan has recently established the world’s second largest forensic science laboratory in Lahore to counter terrorism and help police in investigations of criminal cases.7 This laboratory will provide services in 14 forensic disciplines, including toxicology, forensic photography, narcotics, trace chemistry, DNA and serology, crime scene investigation, firearms and tool marks, death scene investigation, questioned documents, computer forensics, latent prints, polygraph, pathology and audiovisual. The government is also seeking the support of international development partners in further strengthening of the laboratory.

DNA forensics involve complex statistical calculations and require extremely careful handling to prevent errors; sample contamination and other problems have been well documented. While any two genetic profiles can be matched with a high degree of certainty, large forensic database scans have led to perplexing results. Take, for example, a 2005 examination of Arizona’s criminal database. The entire enterprise of DNA databases is based on the idea that no two people share the same profile. But Arizona’s database of 65,000-plus entries was shown to have more than 100 profiles that were similar enough for many experts to consider them a “match.” In separate studies, it has been reported that Illinois’ and Maryland’s databases had hundreds of seemingly unique genetic profiles matching one another. This is a phenomenon that suggests people convicted solely on evidence from DNA databases may have profiles that coincidentally match the real perpetrators’, leading innocent people to be incarcerated.8

The human rights problems of universal databases are hard to grasp for some segments of society. Here’s an example that should give anyone pause. Adultery is haram in Islam and a criminal offence in Pakistan; the penalties can range from public flogging to death by stoning. A universal database would instantly prove (or appear to prove) both paternity and non-paternity for a family tree. While the Pakistani government argues that its planned database would not be used to violate any human rights or privacy of citizens, the temptation will always be there. Ultimately abuse of that knowledge seems almost inevitable once it gets into law enforcement agencies’ hands. In addition, there is absolutely no legal protection for citizens in Pakistan to counter the hegemony of any law enforcing agencies.

The existing NADRA database holds name, gender, race, address, identity number, fingerprints, facial biometric details, photos, as well as travel details including border entries and exits. This next generation identity database is not only designed to allow the collection and storage of these presently used identification metrics, it is also built to accommodate identifiers that are likely to become more common in the future, which easily could include individuals’ DNA profiles.

NADRA also has very advanced photo storage and facial recognition capabilities that enables an increased ability to locate potentially related photos (and other records associated with the photos) that might not otherwise be discovered. Linking a DNA database with such a powerful system would eventually make it much easier to locate and track individuals across many aspects of their personal lives, from phone calls to traveling patterns.

With the introduction of the planned DNA database, Pakistan will enter into a new age of high tech monitoring and surveillance of its citizens. However, a society which imposes such massive surveillance upon its citizens is not, in principle, free.

This Post originally appeared here : Gene Watch

Between four walls: sweeping sexual abuse under the carpet

The first time she was sexually abused, she was 14 years old. She broke into tears while telling me her story. I met this girl at the “Take Back The Tech” event, in Peshawar, where she came to me after my session on sexual harassment and cyber legislation. She asked me, “what should a girl do when she has been facing sexual abuse from her biological father for the last 6 years?” I was numbed.

She told me how, being brought up in an educated Peshawar family, she never thought she would face this abuse within the four walls of her own home. She revealed that her first memory of sexual abuse came from when she was about 14 years old. Her father got her alone in the house and started touching her in a sexual way. Terrified and confused, she squirmed and kicked her father but he grabbed her and threatened her not to tell anyone; after that he regularly started coming into her bedroom and touched her while she was sleeping.

The girl told her mother, so most of her family knew about it already and her mother let this happen under her nose just to save her own family life. She described feeling powerless and alone:

“My mother thinks that resistance is dangerous and useless and that if she ever asks her husband to stop sexually abusing his own daughter, he will throw us out including my five sisters. My mother always asks me: “where will we go then, who will give us shelter?”

At that moment the young girl erupted. Years of pent up emotion rose to the surface.

“My mother is able to stop this but the ugly realization is that in reality she fails as a protector, as a real mother!”

She went on: “I am always scared and the slightest sound in the room wakes me up. I have been carrying this burden for more than six years and I have struggled with this secret that is literally eating me from the inside out. I told this to my friend and she advised me to go to the police and lodge a complaint. But like you know, you can’t just do that. I want to kill myself or kill him if he ever touches me in any way…Please tell me what to do. I am desperate, I’ve come down with Manic Depression. I feel dirty – so dirty.”

Her story made me feel sick to my stomach; I was shocked and numbed, and didn’t know what to tell her at first. I can’t even imagine that any father can do this to his own daughter, he who is supposed to take care of her. It feels so disgusting, filthy and sickening…

I advised her to speak up against this abuse, and to start by telling the abuser that you intend to report it to an organisation working for victims of sexual harassment. It’s you who has to speak up first and not suffer in silence. It has taken great inner strength just to put up with this abuse for all of those years, and if you decide to do so, you can use that strength to speak out. He is depending on one thing to hurt you like that: fear. He is depending on the fact that he scares you. If you break free from that fear, you can end this sad story written by someone else, and move forward by writing a better one of your own.

On my way back to home we kept texting each other, I wanted to give her support and counsel her from the guilt, the shame which is making her feel worthless, the fear that something terrible will happen if she reveals the truth about her father, the grief of losing her sense of innocence and freedom, the feeling of helplessness and the statei of despair, how to take away all these negative emotions from abuse victims which come up after being sexually abused by the head of her own family!

Among other things, I realised that there is a pressing need to set up counselling centres to help sexual harassment victims. Counselling is extremely important because of the damage that may come from abuse whose very existence our society often denies. If victims of sexual abuse know there is somewhere where they can speak out without fear of judgement or reprisal, this will help encourage them to do so, and thus take the first step towards dealing with and ending their abuse.

As a first step I suggest that we launch a nationwide counselling telephone line where victims can seek guidance about sexual abuse – so that help and counselling are just a call away. I strongly believe this would give most people in Pakistan the practical means to contact someone for that vital first piece of support and help.

It can only be a first step, though. As this girl’s story so shockingly illustrates, it’s no use offering someone a telephone helpline if their physical safety could also be at risk.

Dealing with the problem of sexual abuse in Pakistan will require a great many changes, both practical and social. It is to our shame that the problem is still being swept under the carpet: we should not add to that by failing to make the necessary changes for the future.

[Via Gender IT]

Pakistan: Count me IN!! Something I can’t unthink now…

When I got an invitation from CREA to participate as a guest speaker at the Count me IN! Conference in Kathmandu I was bit amazed at the title of the conference, “Count me IN!” but when I looked into the agenda in detail I noticed that the conference had a very particular focus on the overlooked segments of society which we tend to ignore in our activism and feminist movements.

I salute CREA which allows more women from marginalised communities for the very first time – which include sex workers, disabled, single, young, lesbian and HIV-positive women, and transgender people from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangiladesh and Sri Lanka – to discuss violence against womeni and strategies of resistance.

It was my first time meeting up with sex workers and transgender and disabled people from Pakistan and I was curious to know about their work and activism. I know it sounds bizarre that being a Pakistani feminist I am ignorant of these marginalised communities and not cognizant of their issues and concerns. In fact I would go so far as to say they are better referred to as disregarded communities within Pakistan – and if I were trying to find an excuse for my ignorance, I suppose it would be this: if the sex worker, transgender and disabled communities in Pakistan are disregarded, overlooked and ignored, it is often because they cannot be very open in their actions and activism within the Pakistani society – precisely due to the fear of safety and security measures. So, they are caught in a vicious circle: ignorance about their lives, concerns and issues fuels prejudice, which is used to justify discrimination and persecution, which in turn means they are justifiably frightened about speaking out — and so we remain ignorant.

I was so pleased to see that all the Pakistani participants were on different panels speaking about their work within the country. I tried attending more or less all their sessions and I was amazed to hear the level of their strategies of resistance against the taboos which they have been fighting for decades. The challenges, the confrontation and their boldness to face the war of words from the so-called “civilized” media of our society was an eye opener for me.

I have to admit that it had never occurred to me how this integral part is missing from the Pakistani feminist movement. I heard Sarah Gill (a focal point for transgender people of Pakistan) talking in the panel discussion on “Making Sure We’re Counted: Trans People Organising in South Asia”. She mentioned that despite a degree of cultural acceptance (hijras have been part of this society for centuries, and were courtesans during the Mughal Empire), members of the transgender community are often persecuted and routinely harassed, face discrimination, and in some cases are subjected to violence simply for being transgender. But now people like Sarah – who is going to be the first trans doctor – and a few others are raising awareness of the issues concerning transgender people in Pakistan and working to cultivate a supportive, empowering and non-judgmental environment for them.

I attended another session on the rights of sex workers where a Pakistani sex worker was talking about the challenges they have to face on a daily basis. She said that “legalising sex work would make it easier to protect our rights. The police harass us for no reason; female sex workers who are working as outreach workers also get into trouble”. “For a way out, many times sex workers succumb to pressure and end up having sex with the policemen; those who don’t, end up getting a beating and being violated forcefully”.

I also met disabled people at the conference and it was so depressing to hear them talking about the challenges and difficulties they have in their lives. A participant from Pakistan said that “It’s still hard to find buildings, places and transport where people on a wheelchair like me can freely move in and out”. She called on the governmenti to come up with a legal solution.

Another participant from India said that “we should go out to meet friends and communicate with society. This is the ideal way to learn what a sexual relationship is and experience it and other social activities. But the environment is still tough for us.” She asked this question to all the activists attending the session: “How many of you pay attention to sexual rights of disabled people? Sadly, it’s a dominant idea that people with disabilities are sexually inactive,” or “Even including our families some say having sex is not a must-do for them.” She said that deep-rooted discrimination against disabled people undermines the sexual rights of mentally or physically-challenged people.

They face popular indifference (at best) and (at worst) prejudice and hostility. They suffer practical consequences – ranging from lack of access to places and services, to physical and sexual assault – and it is considered somehow OK to ignore and deny their rights as a matter of course.

The question is, what can we, as fellow activists, do to help? From my experiences at the Count me IN! Conference I came to two conclusions:

  • First, whether I talked to LGBT individuals, disabled people or sex workers, what came through is not how they are different from me, but how they are similar. And yet, society does not force me to define myself by my sexuality or my profession first, and my humanity second. Society’s response to such individuals takes away their freedom, by forcing them to define themselves as “gay” or “disabled” first, and a person second. We have a duty to treat all individuals as people first and foremost – to Count Them IN! – so that each person has the freedom to decide whether they wish to define themselves in terms of their sexuality, their profession or their physical characteristics. After all, that’s the simple privilege which the rest of us enjoy by default.
  • Second, I looked at the vicious cycle in which the many Count Me IN! communities find themselves trapped, and the more I looked at it, the more convinced I became that the point at which to attack it is “ignorance”. I think back to the point in my own life at which I got the opportunity to tell my story – to inform and explain; to attack the ignorance and preconceptions surrounding me. I look at what a “simple” step that was, and yet how profound its effects have been. So here is my pledge and my call to action: give the LGBT community, the sex workers, and the disabled a space in which they can tell their stories; do your part to counter ignorance and dispel prejudice.

This Post Originally appeared here : Gender IT

Post via  CREA

Acid Prevention Law in Pakistan

“Acid violence is a particularly outrageous form of violence that involves throwing corrosive acid at victims’ faces. This not only causes face disfiguration but also has a ruinous effect on the victims’ life. It usually occurs as one of the worst forms of domestic violence and is most often directed at women, and children are often collateral damage. The effects of acid violence include serious physical harm (loss of eyes and limbs, corrosion of organs, and subsequent infections such as septicaemia and gangrene). Acid survivors are disfigured for life. In addition to the inevitable psychological trauma, survivors also face social isolation and exclusion that further damage their self-esteem and seriously undermine their professional and personal future.

The number of acid attacks is particularly high in the southern part of Punjab, the south Asian country’s cotton belt and second largest province. Naila Farhat became victim of an acid throwing attack by a spurned suitor from Layyah, a district of southern Punjab. She was thirteen when her elementary school teacher, and admirer whom she had rejected, assalted her on her way home from school in 2003. Farhat pressed charges and attended court sessions for six years, yet watched the teacher escape unpunished. Her ex-suitor, Irshad Hussein, was sentenced to twelve years in prison and fined 1.2 million rupees, the equivalent of $15,000. Hussein appealed and the sentence was decreased to four years and 110,000 rupees.

In November 2009 when Farhat petitioned the Supreme Court to reinstate the original sentence, she became the first woman to win an acid attack case. “Because this happened to me, other women can now go directly to the Supreme Court and be heard.” She has been pursuing her case for seven years and finally her dream came true last year.

Upcoming Supreme Court of Pakistan legislation namely “Acid Control and Burn Crime Prevention Bill 2010” is the fruit of Naila’s efforts and it will be tabled in the parliament soon. On June 24 2010, the Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UNIFEM) held a consultation meeting for Acid and Prevention Bill 2010. The bill is being formulated by Ministry of Women Development (MoWD) in collaboration with these organizations. Several consultation workshops and meetings have been arranged to finalize the draft of the bill, aimed at controlling the import, production, transportation, boarding, sale, and use of acid to prevent the misuse of acid as a corrosive substance and to provide legal support to acid and burn victims. The Ministry of Law has divided it into two Bills: one for acid crime and other for acid control.

I sincerely hope this bill will get smooth passage in National assembly. When it was presented, religious conservatives in this government agency and in Parliament have spoken in opposition to the bill and empowerment of Pakistani women, and many subscribe to an interpretation of the Qur’an that states a man cannot be punished for violent discipline of family members.”

(This first appeared here WorldPulse)

Is Pakistan putting the UN Millennium Goals at risk?

I was recently fortunate enough to attend the Internet Governance Forum i(IGF) 2010 meetings in Vilnius, Lithuania. The IGF is an international body, set up by the United Nations (UN) to address global issues of governance in the online world. It has been running for five years now, and is linked to the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, of which Millennium Development Goal 3 (MDG3i) is specifically concerned with the evolution of women’s rights.

The IGF as an inclusive forum

The discussions I witnessed at IGF 2010 really brought home to me the scale of the challenges we still face, if we are to make meaningful progress towards the goals of the IGF in general, and MDG3 in particular. For instance, although the interneti has been with us for a decade and a half, no-one can seriously claim that today’s internet governancei does enough to combat violence against womeni in the cyber world. The technology may have evolved at phenomenal pace over that period, but social, cultural and legal change proceeds at a far slower pace : and yet the time remaining to achieve MDG3 is just five years.

While the discussions and initiatives of the IGF are welcome, I challenge whether they are enough, in the absence of serious national debate – particularly in developing countries like Pakistan, where such discourse remains extremely rare.

When we talk of cultural and social change, it should go without saying that the most important participants in the discussion should be today’s young people. Unfortunately, even in a supposedly global forum, that is exactly what happened: the perspectives of young people went largely unspoken, even when their representatives were present and wanted to speak. I can recall the intervention of the youngest member of the European parliament – Amelia – who was elected as a Pirate Party MEP for Germany. She practically had to seize the microphone from the moderator of one of the main sessions, just to ask the panel how long we have to listen the same old voices, who have been speaking in IGF for five years, without seeing any visible change in the strategies of Internet Governance. If the IGF is serious about listening to the voice of youth, now is the only time to do it. That’s only logical: if you delay and delay, they aren’t the youth any more!

And then I remember the remarks of Anriette, the executive director of APC, who showed her concern about the low participation of women as a principal stakeholder – and also about the lack of voices from developing countries being heard in these forums. The IGF Programme was massive: multiple themes, with dozens of sessions and scores of stakeholders i– and yet among all those workshops there were only two or three covering the topic of Internet Governance and women’s rights – and even those were all organised or co-organized by APC alone.

If the UN is truly committed to MDG3, it must surely do more to ensure that the rights of women, as a major stakeholder group, are better represented through the IGF. If even global bodies such as the UN cannot prioritise women’s rights in the IGF context, what hope is there at the national level?

A national perspective

Turning to that national level; from a Pakistani perspective I see more than enough evidence of Pakistani girls and women as victims of cyber crimes, including cyber stalking, cyber pornography and cyber bullying through the internet and mobile cell phones. Society has certainly adapted quickly in one respect, even in developing nations: online services like YouTube, Facebook, mobile SMS as well as MMS have quickly been turned to these less appealing uses, and innocent women, especially young women and students.

What is not often understood, even in supposedly inclusive and well-informed communities like the IGF, is the appalling impact these actions can have, particularly in developing nations with more restrictive or conservative cultures. What might, in some Western nations, amount to no more than an immature but harmless prank, can – in countries like Pakistan, have the most dire results: a home-made, manipulated video of a young Pakistani girl, uploaded and disseminated online, can cause untold harm to the unknowing subject, who – through no fault or even act of her own – may find herself facing subsequent loss of personal liberty, mobility and recreation, and even deprived of educational, employment and marital opportunities, leading to social boycott and parental censure.

The IGF must proceed towards MDG3 – but it cannot do so on an assumption that “one governance regime fits all”, in the global online world.

From my own experience of working on women’s rights in Pakistan, I can cite many examples of cyber crime which just cannot be ignored if MDG3 is to be anything more than an empty hope. Here are some of the kinds of activity, made possible by the internet, which have a disproportionate effect on women in our society:

  • Some individuals use blogs to post pictures of Pakistani girls (they haven’t spared school girls either) and develop scandalous stories around them. Some are smart enough to write posts in such a way that they look like normal blog posts – but if you look more carefully, they are giving out all the information about the girl whose picture has been posted.
  • Defamation is a common problem online – back in Orkut days, I was made aware of a video which, although it was posted via our college community, very well have been classed as a porn video. Some people had claimed that it was a video of one the girls of college.
  • Less severe forms of defamation are something that both men and women suffer. People often don’t notice when they cross the fine line between just expressing an opinion and saying something which can cause serious offence or problems for the other person. The way in which the internet crosses cultural and national boundaries means that mere jokes and even apparently harmless posts can have serious complications for a woman.
  • There is also frequent use of email, Instant Messaging and other online channels to harass women. Apart from the obvious and unwarranted distress this can cause in itself, one should also bear in mind that these channels might otherwise be a rare and precious way for such women to socialise with their peers, express themselves and stand up for their own rights. If they cannot go online for fear of harassment, such women are denied many of the legitimate benefits of the online world.

The legal dimension

I freely admit: these are complex social and cultural issues, and neither technology nor law alone can offer a solution. However, it seems to me that one sure way to fail is to try and address them in the absence of legal protections against cyber crime.

Pakistan’s own “Prevention of Electronic Crime Ordinance 2007” was allowed to lapse several months ago from now, and there is no sign of new legislation being brought forward. Unfortunately in absence of cyber law only one remedy is available under section 509 Pakistan Penal Code which allows victim to register complaints against harassment through our Police Enforcement Authority, yet regrettably the way our police treat the victims, specially women, they always avoid to go to police being pressurized by family.

The enforcement authority which deals with cyber crime (the Federal Investigation Authority, or FIA) says there is no law in the country at the moment to check cyber crimes, and as a result they are unable to take action on any cyber-crime related complaints.

This is how one Pakistani newspaper reports the FIA’s response to cyber complaints:

“The contents of complaint prima facie attract the application of the Prevention of Electronic Crime Ordinance. The ordinance has, however, expired in November 2009 and thereafter neither the same has been re-promulgated nor any other law has been passed by Parliament dealing with offences punishable under PECO.
In view of above legal position, the acts of omission/commission mentioned in the complaint do not constitute an offence punishable under any law available on the charter of FIA.
Hence, no action can be initiated on your complaint by NR3C for want of jurisdiction.”

The cyber crime ordinance was first issued through a presidential order on December 31st, 2007 by former president Musharraf, and was later endorsed by Present governmenti with minor amendments. Ordinances are supposed to be endorsed or renewed every three months.

According to the FIA, it has been reminding the concerned departments (principally, the Ministry of IT and Telecomms) about the lapse of the ordinance, but apparently they are either simply ignoring the FIA, or deliberately giving priority to other business. One might think that government departments have as much interest in preventing cyber crime as anyone else; either to protect their own ability to function properly, or to safeguard the interests of the citizens they serve. It is hard to see what motive they could have for their current refusal to act.

The cultural factor

In other respects, too, the Pakistan government’s inaction is surprising: for example, if we accept that there is to be no law under which cyber crimes can be prosecuted, wouldn’t it be sensible to educate citizens about how to do more to protect themselves when they go online? And yet unfortunately in Pakistan we don’t see any governmental campaigns to raise awareness of cyber crimes and how to protect against them. Instead, it is left to rare, non-governmental organisations such as Bytes For All (a member of APC – Association for Progressive Communication) to raise awareness of issues such as violence against women and girls in the digital world.

Such campaigns are essential, if cultures are to adapt successfully to technological change – but they are seriously undermined if citizens have no legal remedy when their Cyber Rights are infringed.

A call to action for the UN

On 16th September 2010, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched the 2010 MDG Gap Task Force Report with the following words: “Tremendous progress has been made in strengthening (international) partnerships but the agreed deadline of 2015 is fast approaching and there is still much to be done”.

Mr Secretary General, for all the progress you mention towards stronger international partnerships, I hope this report makes it clear that in some respects, we are actually worse off now than we were a little under a year ago, in November 2009. Our government shows little interest in giving its citizens either legal protection, or practical guidance on how to protect themselves.

The deadline for MDG3 is not just challengingly close: it is seriously at risk. If member stateis such as Pakistan are allowed to do nothing, the UN cannot meet its Millennium Development Goals.

As the chief sponsor of the IGF and the Millennium Development Goals, please send the following message to the governments of Pakistan and other developing nations:

  • Act now, to engage stakeholders such as the women and the young; don’t allow their valuable input to be lost through inaction on your part;
  • Act now, to establish the right legal framework within which your citizens’ rights can be protected against malicious and criminal online activity;
  • Act now, to make the internet a safer place, where your culture and society can thrive, evolving in pace with technology, not threatened by it.

But above all, act.

(This post originally appeared here:  GenderIT)

Another Pak Army Abusive Video Appears while US increases Military Aid

Yet another video can be seen on you tube where apparently Pakistani Army severely beating up the suspected militant. While thrashing and whipping him, men dressed in Pakistani military uniforms can be heard asking the prisoner, “Are you a Talib?” Mixed in with other questions is some laughter and threatening “you should know, our bullet never miss the target”.

There are more than five prisoners are lying on the ground, among them an old man with long white beard and hands tied up is screaming with pain however the army men around, nudged him with sticks.

Last execution video had already raised concerns among human rights organisations and US officials (although I have some doubts about the reliability of expressions of concern by “American officials” about human rights violations in Pakistan) about how Pakistan’s military has been conducting its battle against militants, with the financial support of the United States. Responding to New York Times  American officials said, Pakistani officials acknowledged that the video had not been faked, whereas they have denied the credibility of the video earlier, US official also informed Times that Pakistan Army had identified the soldiers and would take appropriate measures against the unit.

What US law says about gross human rights violations by the US funded militaries around the world:

The Leahy Amendment is a law passed in 1997 that prohibits U.S. funding of security forces whose members have been credibly implicated in human rights violations, stating:

None of the funds made available by this Act may be provided to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of State has credible evidence that such unit has committed gross violations of human rights, unless the Secretary determines and reports to the Committees on Appropriations that the government of such country is taking effective measures to bring the responsible member of the security forces unit to justice

US law clearly mentioned here that no funds will be provided to foreign military units where they found to be violators of HR in their military operations. US Officials also admitted that Pakistani Government has acknowledged the authenticity of the youtube execution video and there are units who are affected by the cutting of funds including Pakistani special operations forces who have carried out attacks on the Taliban in Pakistan’s Swat Valley and South Waziristan.

While talking to times the champion of this legislation, Leahy said:

I told the White House that I have real concerns about the Pakistani military’s actions, and I’m not going to close my eyes to it because of our national interest in Pakistan, If the law is going to have teeth, it has to be taken seriously. Pakistan’s military leaders have made encouraging statements about addressing these issues, but this requires more than statements.

Leahy is absolutely right that we need more then statements by Pakistani officials, the second video is an obvious example that how responsible Pakistani troops are!!

Furthermore Rights group Amnesty International warned that bullet-ridden bodies of those who have been abducted, many showing signs of torture, are increasingly being found across Baluchistan whereas previously bodies of the missing were rarely recovered.

Victims’ relatives and activists often hold Pakistan’s security forces and intelligence agencies responsible.

Concern over growing extra judicial killings and torture over suspected militants by Pakistani army have been raised time to time by Human Rights Organisations and US Government is fully aware of the fact.

In conclusion, while the Leahy amendment provides the legal framework for the U.S. to pressure Pakistani security forces to respect human rights and to aggressively prosecute violators, why public at large is not aware of the reports coming out as the result of the inquiry committee set up by Army Chief,  following the cuts of the abusive troops funding.

This post first appeared here : Teeth Maestro