Prime Minister Imran Khan’s statement about bringing all stakeholders on board when drafting rules to govern the internet is very welcome. Amid the public outcry that resulted from the state’s attempts to unilaterally dictate new rules that were both ambiguous and making online censorship a dangerous possibility, the Prime Minister has displayed that his government is willing to listen and work with all affected parties.

The only issue in all of this is that in no way has the government highlighted why new rules must be brought in at all. The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act is not yet antiquated and the rules to prevent any crime from taking place on the internet are clearly stated within. If we try and infer what the government really wants to achieve with this new set of rules, its real gripe is with free and unfettered content. However, barring a complete localisation of the internet – which is not really possible – try as it might, the state cannot really control all that is said on social media. Platforms already comply with requests to remove extremist and sensitive content, so what is even the problem?

The global digital economy has benefitted enormously from letting the internet remain as open as possible, as long as it does not circumvent any laws. Digital entrepreneurship has just started to take off here in Pakistan. We must let it thrive if the government is really interested in its Digital Pakistan vision. Once the Prime Minister holds to his promise of bringing all opinions to the discussion table, perhaps the government might see this too. Creating jobs from the internet must be prioritised over petty attempts to stifle dissent. It is hoped that the government comes around and accepts this reality soon.