Leading global digital media giants, as represented by the Asia Internet Coalition (AIC), have voiced “deep concern” regarding Pakistan’s latest AI policy, warning that it could significantly hinder the growth of the country’s digital economy.
In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, the AIC and its member organizations raised profound apprehensions about the potential introduction of the Personal Data Protection Bill (PDPB), E-Safety Authority Bill, and forthcoming amendments to the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) and the Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight, and Safeguards) Rules (RBUOC).
The letter stressed the importance of prioritizing economic recovery, policy certainty, and predictability amid the nation’s ongoing economic challenges. However, the AIC expressed significant concerns about the lack of transparency in the legislative process and the failure to fulfill assurances of extensive consultation. This opacity has eroded investor trust and generated considerable legislative uncertainty, prompting international companies to reconsider their operations in Pakistan due to the hasty passage of these laws.
The AIC, as an industry association, underscored the potential for multi-stakeholder dialogue to shape policies and legislation, fostering innovation and technological advancement. Nevertheless, the proposed bills, in their current form, are seen as a serious impediment to Pakistan’s digital economy growth. The legislation would make it challenging for AIC members to offer their services to Pakistani users and businesses.
Pakistan risks becoming a global outlier if the legislation is enacted as is, isolating the nation and denying its users and businesses the growth opportunities presented by the global internet economy.
The letter emphasized the need for practical and transparent regulations that balance the interests of the country while preserving the advantages of the internet. It called upon the government to collaborate with the industry in this endeavor to fulfill Pakistan’s digital transformation objectives.
The AIC reiterated its commitment to working with Pakistan to create an environment that encourages innovation, investment, and progress in the digital landscape, benefiting both the nation and its citizens. It emphasized that while it supports regulation, such legislation must address internationally recognized rights to privacy and individual expression.
The letter concluded by highlighting the importance of aligning regulations with the government’s vision of a dynamic digital economic ecosystem for Pakistan, where technology platforms drive substantial economic growth.