Ministry of IT opens new draft legislation on data protection for public consultation

Photo by usama tayyab on Unsplash

Islamabad, April 14, 2020: A new draft legislation for data protection of Pakistani Citizens, Personal Data Protection Bill, 2020, has been made available by the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication (MoITT), on its website. The ministry holds that it aims to “promote a broader collaborative process” and has invited stakeholders to submit input and feedback. This is the first update on the bill since 2018 when the previous draft was shared.

“On the direction of  Federal Secretary Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui, officials of the Ministry of IT have formulated the Draft Personal Data Protection Bill 2020 as privacy of personal data of an individual has become more relevant and important than ever before because of increasing use of ICT services in view of pandemic (COVID-19)” reads the official statement on the draft. 

“The need for comprehensive legislation to protect data of Pakistani citizens is crucial – now, more than ever. Where the world is dealing with a healthcare emergency, and governments are resorting to technological assistance to control the spread of coronavirus, extremely sensitive information of patients and other people is at risk of being breached and misused” says Sadaf Khan, Director Programs at MMfD, “It is important that any deliberation on the new draft take a human rights based approach,” she adds.

Pakistan committed to enact Data Protection and privacy legislation as a part of Open Government Partnership commitments in 2017. The first and second draft of the legislation was made public in 2018 and was criticised by civil society for failing to incorporate transparent procedures and offering appropriate protections to the citizens. The new draft appears to incorporate some of the recommendations made on the previous draft, however, on various points, concerns remain. 

“While the new draft does appear to incorporate some of the civil society recommendations – the demand to bring public bodies under the ambit of the law, for instance – other issues remain. Some sections remain ambiguous and others raise questions about separation of powers” says Khan. 

The draft bill can be accessed here

Hija is the Senior Programs Manager at Media Matters for Democracy. She leads digital rights and internet governance advocacy at MMfD. Tweets at @hijakamran

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