The Asia Internet Coalition (AIC), a multinational industry body dedicated to addressing internet policy matters in the Asia-Pacific region, has voiced serious apprehensions regarding the upcoming tabling of the Personal Data Protection Bill and the E-safety Authority Bill in Pakistan. The organization has emphasized the necessity of engaging stakeholders in the legislative process.
Additionally, the AIC has expressed deep reservations regarding proposed amendments to the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) and the Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight, and Safeguard) Rules.
In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Baire Jeff Paine, Managing Director of the Asia Internet Coalition (AIC), highlighted that amidst the current economic challenges facing the nation, it is imperative to prioritize economic recovery, policy certainty, and predictability to foster investor trust and commitment to Pakistan.
Regrettably, Paine stated that AIC members have identified significant concerns regarding the opaque legislative process in Pakistan. While initial reassurances of extensive and inclusive consultations were provided, particularly by the Minister of Law and Justice, Minister of Information Technology and Telecommunication, Foreign Minister, and the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister, these assurances did not materialize in practice.
Despite promises of forward-looking governance and a willingness to address stakeholders’ concerns, Paine pointed out that “the actual consultation process has proven neither credible nor transparent. This has completely eroded investor trust as they grapple with significant legislative uncertainty.”
The AIC cautioned that the haste with which these legislations are being pushed forward is causing international companies to reevaluate their willingness to operate in Pakistan.
The association firmly believes in the potential of multi-stakeholder dialogue to shape policies and legislation that encourage innovation and technological advancement. It expressed concerns that the proposed legislation could severely hinder the growth of Pakistan’s digital economy.
According to the AIC, in their current form, these legislations and rules would create challenges for its members in providing services to Pakistani users and businesses. The organization highlighted that as it currently stands, Pakistan risks becoming an outlier on the global stage, isolating its users and businesses from the growth potential of the internet economy.
To achieve a dynamic digital economic ecosystem and make Pakistan an attractive destination for technology investment while advancing its digital transformation goals, the AIC urged the government to collaborate with the industry in establishing practical and transparent regulations that preserve the advantages of the internet while safeguarding the country’s interests.
The AIC concluded its message by stating, “Together, we can foster an environment that encourages innovation, investment, and progress in the digital landscape, benefiting both the nation and its citizens.”