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Public debate should be encouraged on issues of cyber warfare and cyber security: Mushahid

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ISLAMABAD:(APS)Feb 26: Two-day Pakistan Cyberspace Conference has begun in Islamabad with the aim to open debate on internet freedoms, related human rights, the rightful role of the state in governing internet and encouraging masses to participate in internet policy making in Pakistan.

 Bytes of All, Pakistan in coordination with its global partners The

Citizen Lab, Global Partner Digital, the Royal Embassy of the

Netherlands and the Canadian High Commission in Pakistan is organizing the conference in the backdrop of Global Cyberspace Conference scheduled to take place in the Hague, Netherlands in April 2015.

 Addressing the conference’s inaugural session, Chairman Senate’s

Standing Committee on Defense Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed said that issues of cyber warfare and cyber security are of immense importance, and the public debates should be encouraged in this regard. He urged the government to devise a governance policy, which simultaneously addresses cyber security issues, internet freedoms and related rights of the citizens. Criticizing the government for not having any internet policy,Mushahid called upon the government to come up with a transparent alternative solution in protecting internet freedoms and the cyber security in Pakistan.

“The government could not introduce any policy on Youtube and banning Youtube in the country is a silly decision”: Mushahid cited as an example of the government’s inability about internet governing laws,adding that even Saudi Arabia did not block Youtube, but it is blocked since last three years in Pakistan.

The Netherlands Ambassador Marcel de Vink in his speech said that

cyberspace is an important topic and Pakistan is a major partner in the global society. “Enormous potential of growth exists in Pakistan when comes to internet efficacy, the stakeholders should ensure that internet remains free, open and secure”: the ambassador added. He further said that security and trust of internet users is very important. Marcel stressed for investing in the coalitions and focusing on the best practices in this regard.

Director The Citizen Lab, Toronto University, Professor Dr. Ronald

Deibert in his keynote emphasized that the rise of national security

paradigm is disastrous for open internet and related human rights and freedoms.

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Talking about cyber security, Professor Ron

Head of Foreign Policy and Diplomacy in Canadian High Commission in Pakistan, Bernard McPhail on this occasion said that internet use should not be discriminatory, rather all individuals should be given equal access to the internet. “Openness of internet makes it an excellent tool for advancing human rights and democracy”: Mr. McPhail said, adding that all offline rights including freedom of expression, association,assembly and privacy should also be extended online as well.

Earlier, Country Director Bytes for All, Pakistan Shahzad Ahmed in his welcome speech highlighted the major areas related to Information and Communication Technology, state of internet freedoms and the governing policies in Pakistan. Shahzad stressed on the need for national level discussion on cyber security given its implications.

Director General Coordination, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority Wasi Ullah Khan during the panel discussion said that the authority does not have the mandate of surveillance, rather it is just an authority regulating the telecommunication industry and protecting the consumers’rights.

Yasser Latif Hamdani, a lawyer engaged in public interest litigation on digital rights, said  if any surveillance happens in a country, it

should be protected by the law, but unfortunately Pakistan is lacking

such law that determines or crystallizes the privacy, other online

issues, and same is the case that we do not have data protection laws;mata-data of citizens is insecure because whatever we are doing is being monitored. He said that the data available with the government institutions can also be transferred to any country.

“Our judges and judiciary is ill-equipped that they are unable to deal

with cyber issues in Pakistan”: Hamdani added.

Awami National Party’s legislator Bushra Gohar during the panel

discussion told the participants that telephones of every parliamentarians are being bugged in the premises of the parliament of Pakistan only to intimidate them. She said that Pakistan is a security state, and there has been a constant struggle between the democracy and security narratives. She stressed for the need to review the processes and encouraging more open debates on these issues.

Mr. Ammar Jaffry, former chairman, cyber security task force of Pakistan said that only those involved in ‘fishy’ activities should be worried about the monitoring. He said that cyber security is an important and complicated issue and even governments struggle to deal with it.

The conference will continue tomorrow with panelists discussing the

recently proposed cybercrime bill, innovation and entrepreneurship and media and cyberspace.

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