ISLAMABAD: National and global human rights watch dogs have various concerns over the recently passed Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill-2016 (PECB 16) by Parliament of Pakistan, Daily Times learnt. The PECB16 was pending before National Assembly (NA) over the months after the formal approval of Senate. It has finally got NA nod last week. The bill comprised 51 clauses, several of which have been criticized by human rights activists as well as legal experts. Bytes for All (B4A), is a Human Rights Organization based in Pakistan with a focus on Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). Its Program Manager Furhan Hussain said that the PECB16 is a dangerous law because it threatens the fundamentals of the constitution of the county, such as freedom of expression, the right to privacy, and the right to association and assembly that it promises to all citizens. “This law gives uncontrolled authority to the government to censor even the most harmless content such as political satire and parody of politicians,” Hussain said adding that it also allows for carrying out surveillance and violation of privacy without putting out any safeguards, fertislising the soil for active misuse of authority. Media Matters for Democracy (MMD), Director Programs Sadaf Khan told this correspondent that the country needs good cyber crime legislation – not the PECB16. The bill, she said, is too vast in its approach and attempts to mix cybercrime, cyber security, cyber terrorism and even some non criminal offenses. “Section 34 of this bill allows Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to ‘manage’ or ‘censor’ content online without any proper oversight mechanism”, Khan maintained. “The censorship has been borrowed directly from Article 19 of the constitution which means that PTA, an executive authority will have the power to interpret a constitutional provision. To give PTA this power is completely unconstitutional,” she said. While talking about the implementation procedure of the bill she said implementation of this law will also be fraught with imperfections. The selection and training of the judicial teams, the creation on an independent forensic lab, the lack of safeguards for citizens which would result in potential abuse of power by the investigative authorities would all be challenging. “The bill needs a lot of amendments; actually the government is trying to curtail basic human rights in the name of countering terrorism”, he added. He said that the online platform remained the only place in the country where one could fully exercise our basic human right “freedom of expression” by all means, but the masses lost the right after the legalisation of the bill. The United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, had in December last year voiced his concern over the upcoming bill (PECB16 now). According to him the vague bill provides “that provide limited guidance as to what would be prohibited under the law and impose excessives restrictions that would criminalise legitimate forms of expression.” The bill would also set penalties that would be out of proportion to the infractions, he had said. Legal expert and former Judge Mukhtar Ahmed Ranjha said that Article 19-A of the constitution states that everyone has freedom of expression while this right will be effected after NA passed the PECB16. The right of a fair trial in Article 10-A of constitution will be effect as according to bill, the burden of levelled allegations would be easiest. This would increase the chances of innocent people being victimised.