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Pakistan’s data protection, e-safety laws worry tech giants

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  • Government approved bills on e-safety and data protection in July.
  • “Laws will undermine govt policy on investor confidence,” letter says.
  • It adds proposed law will “severely cripple” digital economy’s growth.

The Asia Internet Coalition, a global association representing global tech giants, has shared its reservations with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif regarding the recently passed data protection and e-safety bills in Pakistan, along with other similar legislation.

The coalition said it fears Pakistan might become an outlier on the global stage due to these laws after its federal cabinet approved the Personal Data Protection Bill 2023 and the E-Safety Bill 2023 on July 27.

However, the bills have received criticism from digital rights activists, civil society members, individuals, and organisations related to business, investment, and technology, both nationally and internationally.

The AIC’s letter also highlighted concerns about the proposed changes to the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act of 2016 (PECA) and the online content-blocking system.

“We want to express our deep concern about the potential tabling of the Personal Data Protection Bill (PDPB), E-Safety Authority Bill and upcoming 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 read.

In its current state, the letter mentioned, Pakistan risks becoming a global outlier, needlessly isolating and depriving Pakistani users and businesses of the growth potential of the internet economy.

The coalition added that the aforementioned laws will undermine the government’s policy on investor confidence.

“Amidst the prevailing economic challenges confronting the nation, it is imperative that economic recovery, policy certainty, and predictability be prioritised to foster investor trust and commitment to Pakistan,” the letter mentioned.

It added that the AIC members find cause for significant concern in the opaque process through which these laws are set to be passed in Pakistan.

The initial reassurances of extensive and broad-based consultation — particularly from the law and justice minister, information technology and telecommunication minister, the foreign minister and the special assistant to the prime minister — have not materialised, leaving us deeply alarmed, the letter lamented.

“Despite promises of forward-looking governance and a willingness to address stakeholders’ concerns, the actual consultation process has proven neither credible nor transparent,” it stated.

The coalition members wrote that the consultation process has completely eroded investor trust, as they grapple with significant legislative uncertainty. “Additionally, the speed with which these legislations are being rushed is causing international companies to re-evaluate their willingness to operate in the country.”

The members stated that they strongly believe in the potential for multi-stakeholder dialogue to shape policies and legislation to foster innovation and technological advancement.

“However, the proposed legislation will severely cripple the growth of Pakistan’s digital economy,” they said, adding that while Pakistan’s strong potential is recognised, but the sudden announcement on laws belies Islamabad’s claims that it is open for business and investment.

“In fact, the legislations and rules as currently written would make it difficult for AIC Members to make their services available to Pakistani users and businesses,” it mentioned.

In order to fulfil this vision and to ensure that Pakistan becomes a lucrative destination for technology investment and achieves its digital transformation objectives, the letter urged the Pakistani government to collaborate with the industry in establishing practical and transparent regulations that preserve the advantages of the internet while balancing the interest of the country.

“Mr Prime Minister, we know that you share our vision of a dynamic digital economic ecosystem for Pakistan, where platforms such as those of our members continue to drive substantial economic growth,” the members wrote in their letter to the premier, calling to foster an environment that encourages innovation, investment, and progress in the digital landscape benefitting all stakeholders.

“We also wish to highlight that the AIC is not against regulation but we believe that the legislation must address crucial issues such as internationally recognised rights to privacy and individual expression,” the letter said, addressing PM Shehbaz.

It further said that doing otherwise would derail the efforts that the Pakistani government and the ICT industry have “painstakingly invested in” for many years.

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US envoy urges deeper strengthening of relations with Pakistan

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The significance of strengthening relations with Pakistan was highlighted by US Ambassador Donald Blome on Thursday.

Blome visited the Chaukhandi cemetery in Karachi, based on the information. President Donald Blome and other delegates were cordially welcomed by Sindh Minister of Culture and Tourism Syed Zulfiqar Ali Shah on this particular occasion.

Narendra Kumar, Heather Murphy, and Zahra Hajiani were among the delegation members who visited Chaukhandi Graveyard’s historic tombs with the American envoy, Acting Consul General Jimmy Mauldin.

Highlighting the rich historical significance of Chaukhandi graveyard, Minister Zulfiqar Ali Shah shared his ideas with the US ambassador.

Blome highlighted the Chaukhandi tombs for their exquisite craftsmanship and architectural design. He promised to help Pakistani visitors with their visa requirements.

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), he promised to promote the nation’s historical sites.

In the meantime, Shah stated, “The Sindh government is taking steps to provide all sorts of facilities to the tourists.”

Pakistan will receive additional assistance from the US to lower methane gas emissions.

The US decided to help Pakistan lower its methane gas emissions earlier this month.

At a USAID Climate Financing event, US Ambassador Blome stated: “We are working very hard to lower methane gas emissions from dairy farming. The Green Climate Fund in Pakistan will be consulted for funding this initiative.”

“As of 2030, there are global efforts to reduce the temperature by 1 degree Celsius. The US-Pakistan Green Alliance is being followed by the collaboration with Pakistan, according to Blome.

“The problems can only be addressed by providing the stakeholders with financial and technical resources,” he continued.

The government’s first aim is to revitalise the cattle industry, according to Federal Secretary Dr. Fakhre Alam. Raising dairy farming’s production capacity will help it overcome its environmental problems.”

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Shehbaz travels to the UAE in order to strengthen trade relations.

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This visit, which is being accompanied by a high-level delegation made up of important ministers such as Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Ishaq Dar, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Commerce Minister Jam Kamal, Information Minister Ataullah Tarar, and advisor Tariq Fatemi, is intended to strengthen bilateral ties and expand cooperation between the two countries.
Prime Minister Sharif will visit President Muhammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates in Abu Dhabi. The high-level gathering will cover Pakistani and UAE bilateral relations, with an emphasis on commerce and investment.

Along with exploring strategic alliances and shared interests that can help their respective nations, they are also expected to concentrate on talking about ways to advance collaboration across a range of industries.

Prime Minister Sharif has talks planned with other Emirati leaders, businesspeople, and heads of financial organisations in addition to his diplomatic engagements. In an effort to promote economic cooperation and draw in investment, he is also scheduled to meet with businessmen and investors from Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates.

The Shehbaz intends to encourage UAE companies to extend their operations into the Pakistani market by interacting with influential businesspeople and highlighting investment prospects in Pakistan.

These exchanges will offer a forum for talking about doable ways to strengthen business relations and carry out initiatives that will benefit both parties. Pakistan’s determination to enhance its political and economic ties with the United Arab Emirates is demonstrated by the visit.

After ending his day-long journey to Iran to offer condolences for the terrible death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his entourage in a helicopter crash on Sunday, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has returned to Pakistan.

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Memon accuses temporary government of ‘delaying’ the BRT Red Line project

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On Thursday, Sindh Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon accused the interim administration of “delaying” the Red Line project of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).

Memon stated what he thought, saying, “The BRT Red Line project was mission impossible. However, the project has now begun to be worked on.”

“The reason government is formed is to solve the issues that the people face. “The government is working tirelessly to bring relief to the masses,” he declared.

Memon declared, “It’s also being done about the unlawful bus stands. The passengers will have access to shuttle service from us.”

“A large number of transport projects have already begun. “We aim to ensure that every individual receives a chance to work,” he continued.

Pakistan was ‘started to damage’ by the founder of PTI.

Memon reported on Thursday that a campaign to hurt the nation was started by the founder of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

Memon said at a Karachi event: “Israel discusses the human rights violations in Pakistan. Israel, a party to the Palestinian holocaust, is endorsing the PTI’s founder. Israel has provided election funding to the PTI’s founder.”

“The worst election tampering in 2018 produced the PTI founder’s victory. Police officers, the parliament, and the PTV were all attacked,” he claimed.

“The entire country was closed due to a 126-day protest,” Memon claimed.

The PTI founder was made fun of by Memon, who said, “The PTI founder had always embraced the politics of anarchy.”

Memon stated the following when discussing the state of law and order in Sindh: “The Sindh government is serious about the state of law and order in the province. In terms of keeping Sindh peaceful, everyone is in agreement.”

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