Dec 08 - 21, 2008

Email inbox what was once a hot source of information has been giving a deserted and emptied look ever since the imposition of dreaded cyber crime ordinance a section of which warns against occupation and dissemination of photo and information electronically without consent of a person, proving itself a hard bash on the freedom of information protracted illness in Pakistan.

Consent of a person to whom materials are linked is required before transmission. Emails and short messages derogatory to government officials and politicians are disallowed in order to protect the sanctity of a person. Interestingly, the ordinance came into force four days before the arrest of two prime suspects of foreign scam that allegedly caused flight of million of dollars foreign reserves from the country. November 06 was the date of promulgation of the ordinance and four days later on November 10 first arrest was made public. The charges on them were imposed also under a section of Prevention of Electronic Crimes ordinance, 2007. Sections 7, 8 and 20 of this ordinance are activated upon electronic fraud, forgery, and other offences committed with the help of electronic devise, computer, or any other electronic means.

Cyber crime investigation team of Federal Investigation Agency has found complementary role played by the electronic means in this money laundering case. It has identified circumstantial evidences from the main working stations of the money changers and substantiated occurrences of electronic fraud and forgery. Perhaps it barged into the systems by decrypting safe codes and hit upon transactions pertaining to money laundering.

Usually, physical transfer of foreign exchange or money transactions taking assistance of intermediaries that exclude formal conduits of banks are enumerated as illegal or Hawala/Hundi. Along with making loss to public monies, this type of money transportation causes evasion of huge foreign exchange from formal documentation of economic activities. Forged record of actual electronic transactions also wriggles out of economic statistics. Keeping in mind banking experts perplexed about the overriding legal invokes restricting limited foreign exchange transfer the offences of manipulation of electronic data or concealment of real statistics to government are no more avoiding reactions of the law and certain penalties.

The ordinance promulgated by the president is strictly dealing with electronic crimes that also include cyber stalking which means provocation electronically to vilify about a person and to fan propaganda against political leaders, government officials. Causing death of a person, cyber terrorism will reportedly be handled with an iron hand. Cyber terrorism is a unique epithet defining e-criminal activities that can become harmful or cost one life. The death is a maximum penalty for cyber terrorism. Imprisonment for a certain period of time and financial penalties can be effected following the prosecution. Spoofing also is declared punishable.

Often emails, blogs, and mobile massaging are considered as media to bottle up one's opinion about a thing or a person freely without panic and people through them express their likes and dislikes with conviction. Seldom is the content based on fact. Yet sometimes the factual interpretation and revelation is rare in genre that turns out to be a never-before disclosure.

For journalists whose starter point to delve into a scramble for writing a story is piqued by hinting emails besides other sources. Anew legalities have likened to end of info age as now internet users and SMS maniacs have become more cautious in exchanging emails or messages, they fear, containing any material repugnant to cyber stalking section of the ordinance.

Hacking is no more a new term for computer generation. With the passage of time the definition of it is evolving. Generally, it is an attempt of a web user to sneak in to the private, prohibited premises of counterparts with or without ulterior motives. This is, of course, illegal according to all international canons. But, in some cases some nations use it as an effective weapon against their rivals. Genius minds are involved in hacking which exacts extra ordinary expertise of computer operators who have full comprehension of scripts inside software developments.

In many developed countries, using unregistered software is illegitimate and equivalent to damaging of patent rights of software designer. They are careful about intellectual proprietorship. At the other front in developing countries where cracking of software is commonly practiced and resorted to maneuver extension in license term, people are unwary of services values packed in software. They make pirated software in use to run the computer. Practically, we can not afford to pay hefty, regular cost incurred on purchase and renewal of software usage license. Pervious government realized this fact and tacitly permitted sale of pirated software despite hue and cry of a leading software developer.

For commercial point of view and in global arena where impartial application of rules is demanded this practice is somehow discouraging, but in societal and economic development, until market based price of software is determined, cracking is no longer a bane. At this evolutionary stage in IT progress, supporting approach can be instrumental in portioning space in the world cyber space. Pressurizing will only result into subjugation of natural positive implosion.

Prevention of cyber crime laws should be effective to nab malfunctions that are undermining the economy. People who are indulged in electronic crimes and misrepresenting their wealth should be brought before the court. It is sensible that the government should also show restraints in effectuating any principle that may wreak havoc to freedom of expression in the country. If not directly, the ordinance is inadvertently denting the freedom of information rights, guaranteed in the Article 19 of the constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan.