Thanks to the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Human Rights that it has understood how the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016 is flawed. While hearing a journalist, Shahzeb Jillani, the committee has requested the National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR) to come up with recommendations to avoid the misuse of law in future.

No one in his or her right mind ever imagined that Pakistan would turn into an Orwellian state. While there were some critical voices against the flaws in PECA, however, their criticisms were swept under the carpet. Although the primary aim of the act is to counter online harassment and terrorist content, it also serves the purpose of a perfect tool in the hands of those who want to curb dissent against state injustices.

The case against Shahzeb Jillani that a local court in Karachi has already quashed ignites debate on the said law’s potential to get abused. Charges against the journalist were made for answering questions in the television show of Kamran Khan. Since the journalist’s opinion differs from that of the petitioner, the latter found Shahzeb’s remarks harming Pakistan’s national interests. However, it is then a slippery slope, and it will make dissent disappear from a society that is vital for the progress of any society.

One fundamental right that PECA severely undermines is the freedom of speech that is article 19 of the constitution. One of the most pressing concerns relates to whether some of the powers given to authorities under PECA should lie with them in the first place. For instance, section 37 of the Act discusses unlawful online content.

Moreover, there are several other provisions of the law that threaten free speech. For example, section 9 discusses the glorification of an offence and specifies the types of crimes and activities for which this is criminalised. However, this section has been drafted in overly broad terms and breaches international standards of freedom of speech.